By James Zug
The 2011 (Part Two) U.S. National Intercollegiate Doubles Championships came to Philadelphia as a part of the U.S. Open’s first weekend. After more than two decades of incubation and careful attention at the University Club of New York, including a tournament in March this year, the intercollegiate dubs migrated south and to a new time slot, from early spring to early autumn.
The response was overwhelming. Sixty- two players came to the Racquet Club of Philadelphia, easily the largest ever. Play ran for more than fourteen hours on Saturday alone, with Preston Quick cheerfully herding cats and refereeing matches.
Fifteen schools were represented. Most enthusiastic might have been Bates, which sailed a half dozen players all the way down from Maine. Players donned their school uniforms, but there was a loose, easy-going feel to the event—with the general absence of coaches and parents— that was in sharp contrast to intercollegiate dual matches. Most players went over to Drexel to catch the U.S. Open.
The women’s draw was in its second running and had a strong eight-team draw. With defending champions Cece Cortes & Sarah Mumanachit of Harvard not back, the Ariffin sisters dominated it. Nabilla and her partner Pia Trikha were the team to beat, especially because the Penn duo were ranked 11th and 19th last year in the 2010-11 Dunlop Women’s College Squash Association’s individual rankings (they were the only top-35 players in the women’s draw). In the finals the Quaker co-captains ran into Nabilla’s sister Nesserine & Ashley Brooks from Bates who had come back from an 0-2 deficit in their semifinal match. Nabilla Ariffin & Trikha won in three hard-fought games, 15-13, 15-7, 15-12.
The mixed, in its inaugural playing, also had a laurelled partnership, Pam Hathway & Reinhold Hergeth from Trinity. Hathway was ranked seventh in singles last season and Hergeth, fresh from a semester back home in South Africa, is a top-notch player looking to leapfrog up from his 53 ranking as a freshman two years ago. But they ran into the doubles buzzsaw that is Trevor McGuinness.
An imposing southpaw, McGuinness has won three men’s national titles and so was far and away the best player at the weekend. In the mixed, he teamed up with Colleen Fehm and the Penn duo were just a little too much for Hathway & Hergeth, capturing the championship in two tight games (the mixed was best two out of three) 15-11, 15-14.
McGuinness won the men’s intercollegiate doubles as a freshman and a sophomore. As a junior he lost a heartbreaker last March, when in the finals he & Dan Judd went down in five to the Franklin & Marshall duo of Gabriel Melo & Ryan Mullaney. Back with his freshman year partner and current co-captain, Tom Mattsson, Mc- Guinness ran rampant to claim his third title (no one, by the way, has ever won the intercollegiate doubles all four years; Jamie Dean of Yale and Duncan Pearson of Trinity are the only others to snag it three times).
McGuinness & Mattsson cruised through their four matches. In the semis, they had a tough three-gamer against Cornell’s Alex Domenick & David Hilton (15-14 in the second game). In the finals, they tasted no revenge, as Melo & Mullaney had unexpectedly lost in the quarters to Andrew McGuinness (Trevor’s younger brother) and Hunter Beck of Navy. But McGuinness & Beck in turn lost in the semis to Rochester’s Matt Domenick & Adam Perkiomaki who then went down in three games to McGuinness & Mattsson.
The tournament is one of the oldest doubles events in the world. It was started as a men’s event in 1942, the same year that the College Squash Association began anointing national team champions, and was held each spring at the same time and place as the national intercollegiate singles tournament. (Thus, in years when the singles was hosted at a college without a doubles court, there was no tournament.) It ran fitfully until the late 1950s and was only revived, due largely to the efforts of Treddy Ketcham, at the University Club in 1988.
The list of winning schools in the doubles is historically more diverse than the intercollegiate team champions (ten versus five for the men) and the chance to become a national champion means a lot to the players and their programs. In fact, the resurgence of the tournament might even lead to the building of a new doubles court at the Naval Academy, according to Navy coach Craig Dawson.
I recently connected with two guys who played in the tournament in its earliest incarnation: Rick Austin who won it in 1951 while at Dartmouth and Roland Nordlie who won it in 1954 while at Army. They both mentioned how it catalyzed a lifetime of love for doubles (Austin went on to win four Michigan state titles, including one with former Detroit Lions wide receiver John Greene). For some, like Trevor McGuinness, that love is already quite in evidence, but for many it was the first doubles tournament they had played in—the first, it is now certain, of many.