To conclude its unprecedented 224th consecutive win, the No. 1 Trinity squash team was crowned with its 12th straight national title — which came at the expense of the No. 2 Yale squad and not without some drama.
The Bulldogs, who fell to the Bantams 8–1 in regular season play, lost 6–3 in the College Squash Association championship match, conceding the national title to the visiting Trinity team. But what stole the show was an altercation following Baset Chaudry’s 3–0 title-clinching victory over Kenneth Chan ’13 in the No. 1 spot.
As Chaudhry was leaving the court to join the celebration Trinity’s team and fans had started on the floor, he surprisingly shoved Chan back onto the court, marring the historic night and concluding a heated match between the two players that included taunting not normally seen in squash.
“I thought it was just a pretty classless match,” Yale head coach David Talbott said. “I’ve never really seen that in a squash match.”
In the regular season contest against their in-state rivals Jan. 20, the Bulldogs eked out just one match victory on a Robert Berner ’12 win. This time around, the Bulldogs prepared differently for the match, including watching the documentary “Miracle on Ice” for inspiration.
“We tried to work on controlling the court more,” Talbott said. “We tried to put the ball deep in the court and play more conservatively and didn’t open up the court. It was mostly patience.”
Each of the three rounds saw one Yale victory, and it was C.J. Plimpton’s ’11 in the opening round.
Plimpton took the opening two sets before dropping the third. He then came back and topped Reinhold Hergeth 11–6 to take the third set and the match.
But that was the Elis’ only success of the first round. Aaron Fuchs ’10 lost a tough one in the No. 2 spot to Supreet Singh, dropping the first game of the hard-fought battle on a long point that he deflected over the front wall before going on to lose 3–0. Naishadh Lalwani ’11 and Ryan Dowd ’12 were also blanked 3–0.
The second round opened with all three Bulldog competitors falling behind 1–0. No. 3 captain Todd Ruth ’10, playing on center court in front of a vocal crowd, struggled early in his match against Parth Sharma. After conceding the first two sets, he had a 9–8 lead before Sharma came back to win the set and the match, 3–0, with an 11–9 win in the final set.
But John Roberts ’12 overtook his Bantam opponent by posting three solid sets en route to a 3-1 win
“We definitely came in fired up,” Richard Dodd ’13 said. “We wanted to up our performance and we were on a high from winning the Ivy championship.”
But the Elis were not to add a national title to their Ivy title as the third round of matches got off to a disappointing start for Yale.
Chan faced off against Baset on center court to begin the round and was dominated from the onset. Chaudhry, the top-ranked individual in the country, used his six-foot-five frame to his advantage as the speedy Chan had difficulty getting around the Bantam. Chan dropped the three sets, only making a strong showing in the second, forcing Chaudhry to notch 12 points to Chan’s 10 to take the set.
The match was the deciding one for the national championship as it began before the other two matches in the final round. Leading 5–2 before the final three pairs took the court, Trinity only needed Chaudhry to beat Chan to clinch the title.
Following some discussion between the coaches and officials, Trinity was named the national champion, but Dodd and Hywel Robinson ’13 had yet to finish their matches.
Dodd, in almost an exact replay of his match against Trinity during the regular season, got off to a good start by winning the opening set in a 13–12 nailbiter. He and Chris Binnie traded sets for the next three to carry the match into a decisive fifth set, the only pair of the competition to do so.
“Coming into the last game, I was pumped,” Dodd said. “I couldn’t quite keep my focus.”
Dodd and Binnie went back and forth until Binnie took a decisive 10-9 lead. He then won the match on the next point as Dodd dropped the heartbreaker 3–2.
Robinson chalked up the many close sets and matches to bad luck.
“I think Trinity was just a little bit better than us today,” he said. “Overall I think [what we needed] was a little more luck and they had luck on their side today.”
Robinson secured the Elis’ third and final victory of the competition as he dominated Vikram Malholtra for three sets after dropping the first 11–2.
“I just wanted to play hard and show some pride,” he said about the match.
The Bantams again proved too much for the Elis and took home the national title and new baseball caps with “XII” embroidered on them to commemorate their historic streak of 12 consecutive national championships.
Yet, the Elis were pleased to walk away from the 2009-’10 season with a 14–2 record and the Ivy League title.
“I’m so proud of the way the kids played,” Talbott said. “It was an incredible season.”