By Jay D. Prince
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Trinity Men’s Squash team lost a match— Feb. 22, 1998 in the finals of the Team Championships. In my world, it actually has been a lifetime, because my daughter was born four months later.
To put some perspective on it, consider the following: that loss to Harvard, on the Crimson’s home courts, happened three years before the iPod was introduced to the world and Apple’s stock price sat at $5/share; Bill Clinton was midway through his second term as President; Google was just getting off the ground; Julian Illingworth was a few weeks away from losing in the quarterfinals of the US Junior Closed U16 and Squash Magazine had only been printed five times (had to throw in some squash trivia too).
But my interest in “The Streak” has admittedly waxed and waned over the last 5,078 days. After all, streaks are really only intriguing when they become really long, or are about to eclipse an earlier one, or they are seemingly about to end. Trinity has been so dominant that there have been times when I’ve really just felt like shrugging my shoulders, resigned to the fact that they were untouchable.
There were the occasional 5-4 wins in dual matches, and even in National Championship Team events, but even those generally felt like forgone conclusions. Exceptions were the Basset Chaudhry win over Mauricio Sanchez at Princeton and, of course, Gustav Detter’s miraculous recovery from two games down and match ball against Princeton’s Yasser El Halaby in 2006 at Trinity.
Even last year, when Yale pushed the Bantams to the brink in the National Championship finals, I never had that feeling that the end was truly near.
This season has been different. Everyone knew Trinity had graduated 12 players, including four All-Americans. Princeton and Yale had gotten stronger, and Rochester wasn’t far behind. Surely this would be the year when Trinity would fall!
But after eight matches, Trinity was undefeated. Would Yale be able to top the Trinity juggernaut on a Wednesday evening in January on the Elis’ home courts?
The anticipation of that match was unlike anything I’ve experienced in squash over the last 15 years. It was different than the build-up toward the Tournament of Champions final between Ramy Ashour and James Willstrop in 2007. This college match had the attention of ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the New York Times. It pulled staff members from U.S. SQUASH out of their New York offices and onto trains to New Haven to be there in person. Twitter was tweeting, and texts were flying through cell space. I was sitting in my kitchen 3,000 miles away paying nine bucks to watch court one via webcast.
Over the course of several hours, my phone never stopped buzzing with updates. The “broadcasters” on the webcast were frantically trying to get updates from other courts at the Brady Center. By the time seven of the nine matches were over, including the No. 1 match on court one, Trinity was up 4-3 and all I could hear through the webcast was the sound coming from neighboring courts. The roar that erupted after Yale’s Robbie Berner finished off Juan Flores at No. 7 was all I needed to know the match was all square at four.
And about 15 minutes after that, another roar—that didn’t stop. My phone buzzed with another text, except this time it included a video clip of the last point in Trinity’s mind-numbing 13-year dominance. John Roberts had put an end to it with an 11-4 fifth game over Johan Detter at No. 4, the brother of Gustav.
Ya gotta love this game! Have I said that before?