Trinity was not just undefeated heading into its match with Yale Wednesday night. It had not lost in 252 games — the longest winning streak in intercollegiate varsity history. It had won the past 13 consecutive national championships.
Yale, ranked No. 2 in the country to Trinity’s No. 1, had come close to the Bantams in recent years. The teams have met in the past two CSA Team National Championships, with the latest contest ending in a 5–4 decision for Trinity.
But history came crashing down around the Bantams at the Brady Squash Center Wednesday when the Elis won the last two matches of the night to clinch a 5–4 victory. It was Trinity’s first loss since 1998.
The fight between the Bantams (8–1) and the Bulldogs (7–0, 2–0 Ivy) came down to the last possible game, as John Roberts ’12 and Trinity’s Johan Detter played in the No. 4 spot with their teams tied, 4–4.
When Roberts scored the match-winning point in the fifth game of his contest with Detter, Yale players and fans rushed onto the court, embraced each other and cheered.
“I was so overjoyed for the team, especially for the seniors,” Head Coach David Talbott said. “This really has been something that they have worked for for the past four years.”
As the men’s team claimed a historic vistory, the women’s team also defeated the No. 5 Bantams 7–2. The women’s triumph spoiled what had been a perfect season thus far for Trinity and brings the Yale record to 8–0.
For the men, the night started out poorly. Yale lost its first two matches before Neil Martin ‘14 held off a late comeback by Vishrab Kotian to win, 3–2 and narrow the overall deficit to 2–1. Captain Ryan Dowd ‘12 then rolled to a 3–1 win against the Bantams’ Reinhold Hergeth, Hergeth’s first loss of the season.
But losses by Samuel Clayman ’12 at No. 8 and Kenneth Chan ’13 at No. 1 gave Trinity a 4–3 lead with only two games left to play.
The players who took the court for Yale in those last two games were a pair of seniors — Robert Berner ’12 at No. 7 and Roberts.
Things looked bleak for the Bulldogs when both men dropped their first games. Roberts fought hard in a series of back-and-forth rallies to defend an early game lead, but his opponent, Johan Detter, managed to win 12–10.
“I lost a couple of loose points, and it was hard to shake it off early on,” Roberts said. “But knowing my teammate Robbie was playing in the next court, I needed time to settle into my rhythm.”
Roberts went on to win the second game, 11–7, and Berner also won a game, then both won again to give Yale 2–1 leads in both must-win games.
Berner dominated his fourth game and clinched a 3–1 win for the Elis, knotting Yale and Trinity at 4–4 with only the Roberts game left.
Trinity’s Detter did not concede easily and coasted to an 11–3 win that tied the final match 2–2.
“At this stage, in my mind, I was just focusing on every point, every shot, and while I wasn’t giving my opponent any easy shots, I wasn’t doing anything wild either,” Roberts said.
Roberts added that knowing Detter had the pressure of keeping Trinity’s 13-year-long streak alive helped him deal with his own pressure going into the final game.
Roberts took an early lead, but Detter did not make the final showdown easy. After several long, back and forth rallies, Roberts gutted his way to a 6–3 lead following an unforced error from the Bantam.
As partisan Yale crowds roared after each point, Roberts began to pull away. He won the next four consecutive points to make the score 10–3 and set up match point.
Detter won the next rally, but as the scoreboard displayed 10–4 — another match point — the crowd was roaring, jumping and banging on the bleachers. Talbott, his wife and other players huddled on the sidelines.
“Was I nervous when the final two matches both dropped the first game? Yes, but I know the two are very seasoned players,” Talbott said. “I’ve watched them play a lot of matches where they dropped the first and second games, only to come back and win.”
When Roberts sealed the final game 11–4, the crowd went wild.
“It has been an incredible journey,” Talbott said. “We did something that every other team hasn’t been able to do. Everyone wanted to break this streak.”
The team will carry the momentum from this match into the remaining eight games of their regular season, setting their sights on the Ivy League Championships as well as the National Championships.
“We are going to continue our seasons and aim to win the Ivies,” Chan said.
Last season, Yale took second at nationals but lost in the finals to Trinity.