Bates player Bobby Burns reports on his team’s match with Trinity College, which was held on November 22nd.
Lewiston, ME — As senior co-captain Kush Mahan walked on court, tied 2-2 against the best player for the eleven-time defending national champions, he knew he had the opportunity to do something special. “I had great advice. I had great support. I got told what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, I was able to execute,” explains Mahan. For the first time in the history of Bates Squash, the Bobcats played host to the Bantams of Trinity College; but, for the second year in a row, Bates surprised Trinity by taking one of the nine matches, this time at the number one position. Mahan says of his 2-11, 11-8, 17-19, 12-10, 11-7 victory over Supreet Singh, “It’s the best moment of my squash career.”
In what Bates coach Pat Cosquer called the equivalent of “Bates hosting the University of Texas in football,” the Bobcats brought all the firepower they could against the best team in the history of intercollegiate sports. Coming into the match, the Bobcats had previously disposed of three other NESCAC rivals earlier in the weekend; Tufts, Wesleyan, and Connecticut College all fell to Bates 9-0 on Friday and Saturday in Boston. However, the Trinity match was one circled on the season’s calendar by the Bates players at the beginning of the year, and the Trinity match was the one for which the team had been training.
Bates squash legends, coaches Herb Bunker and George Wigton, were both in attendance and were introduced with the team on court. Both coaches founded the program in 1985, one of the first in NESCAC. Using the three court system, Nick Kourides, Eric Bedell, and I played first for the Bobcats, facing off against Daniel Echavarria, Juan Flores, and Parth Sharma, respectively. Trinity realized in this first round that they would have to earn their 203rd straight victory rather than having it handed over to them. Each match was competitive as Kourides took a game from his opponent and Bedell forced his first game into extra points. Nevertheless the Bantams finished the first round with a 3-0 advantage, Echavarria, Flores, and Sharma winning their matches, 3-1, 3-0, and 3-0, respectively.
The second round of play showed why Trinity is at the apex of not only the squash world, but also intercollegiate sports as a whole. They officially clinched the win with 3-0 sweeps on all courts, Johan Detter over Matthew Baker-White, Christopher Binnie over Dae Ro Lee, and Baset Chaundhry over Bates co-captain Jordan Greenberg. Greenberg showed the Bantams the spirit of Bates in his match, opposing the two-time reigning individual CSA champion, Chaundhry. Greenberg retrieved ball after ball, following the Bobcat code, Not Dead, Can’t Quit.
Once Greenberg exited the court, Mahan entered. Quickly down in the first game, Mahan fell 11-2 to Singh who was ranked 21 places ahead of his opponent in CSA’s individual rankings. The second game saw Mahan open up with a barrage of volleys. He used his gifted hands to place the ball deep into the front corners of court, while still managing to keep Singh honest with consistently paced length. “The third game was probably the longest game I’ve ever played. I didn’t even know the finally score of it until after [the match]. All I knew was game-ball up, game-ball down,” says Mahan. Each player owned at least five game balls before Singh finally took advantage of a Mahan tin, and claimed the game 17-19.
Again in the fourth, Mahan owned the front of the court, changing strategy and winning points by holding his drop and driving the ball cross-court or straight. Mahan troubled Singh the entire match with his diversity of attacking shots and effective deception on open balls. However, after a few unforced errors, Singh took the lead 10-8 and served match ball. Mahan, with the support of over 40 Bates fans, overcame two match-balls to win the fourth 12-10. The fifth opened up with several quick points and a few unforced errors from Singh, who looked nervous, having dropped his last fifth game in the previous season’s national championship bout against Heshem El-Halaby and the Princeton Tigers. Mahan took the lead at 5-1 and didn’t relinquish it, eventually claiming the match at 11-7.
While the Trinity Bantams maintained their streak winning 8-1, it was a huge personal achievement for Mahan and victory for the Bates squash program. Says Mahan, “We all said together as a team, before this match, ‘Yes they are better players than us, and yes, they are the best team in the country, and they deserve that respect,’ but when you go on court, they’re just a squash player, and you are too. It’s the best opportunity you have to go on court. There is no pressure. It’s the best opportunity you have to prove to yourself how good you really are.” It was a big day for Mahan and the Bobcats, as we hope to take this attitude with us throughout the season as we face-off against five more top-10 opponents this season.