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Men’s Team Championships: Middlebury and the Summers Cup

Middlebury sophomore Addi DiSesa writes about his team’s trip to the Men’s National Team Championships.

Middlebury, VT — The Middlebury College men’s squash team found itself in a peculiar position heading into the CSA National Championships at Yale University. For the first time in our program’s three-year history at the varsity level, we had a championship to defend. Obviously, the most important hardware went, once again, to Trinity College, our NESCAC compatriots. For us, however, the ultimate prize for the 2009-2010 season was a repeat performance as champions of the C Division and the Summers Cup.

After defeating Bowdoin College 5-4 in the 2008-2009 Summers Cup championship match, we faced a new set of competitors this year as the Polar Bears fought their way into the B Division, out of the reach of their NESCAC rivals. Nevertheless, we had our work cut out for us as we attempted to defend our position as the 17th -anked team in the country. Our championship defense began against a dangerous Denison University team, whom we defeated 8-1 in the 2008-2009 tournament. The Ohio club team was seeking revenge, and yearned to once again claim the top spot in the C Division, as Denison coach Peter Burling’s squad did in 2005-2006. On Friday morning, the stage was set as Denison and Middlebury took to courts 8, 9, and 10 at 10:00 a.m. in Yale’s Brady Squash Center. By 11:30 a.m. sophomore Valentin Quan-Miranda wrapped up a successful first round for the Panthers at the number one position, as we downed Denison by a score of 8-1 for the second consecutive year. Our road to a repeat became more in doubt in the next round as we prepared for a rematch with George Washington University.

After an interminable layover between matches, we finally returned to action on Saturday afternoon where we looked to repeat an earlier 6-3 victory over the Colonials. Solid performances from our senior tri-captains Micah Wood, Eliot Jia, and Simon Keyes at positions five, six, and eight, respectively, anchored our encore 6-3 victory over the up-and-coming squad from the nation’s capital. Once again, first-years Jay Dolan and Spencer Hurst provided the finishing blows at positions two and four, also respectively. As the proverbial sun set on another squash-filled day in the Brady Squash Center, we learned of our impending rematch with Amherst College, a team that narrowly defeated Tufts University 5-4 earlier in the day.

Finally, the time had come for us to defend our seed and national ranking against the Lord Jeffs. Although we had defeated Amherst by scores of 5-4 and 7-2 in two previous meetings, the return of Amherst junior Andrew Kriete to an already formidable line-up ensured that this match would be one for the ages. As we took the courts at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, the same time as the National Championship Finals, maintaining our focus on the 17-18 playoff was difficult with the din of the Trinity and Yale faithful echoing through the latter school’s state-of-the-art facility. Our third-year head coach and author of The Triple Crown Trilogy, John Illig, encouraged us to stay in the moment and seize the opportunity in front of us: clinching a second straight Summers Cup championship.

In the first round of matches, junior Will Piekos defeated Amherst senior Lee Banta in a rematch at the number nine position. Piekos had lost to Banta in four games at the NESCAC Championships two weeks prior to the pair’s rematch at Yale. Riding high after a stellar victory at the last position, we returned to earth after surprising losses by numbers six and five, Jia and Wood. Keyes also lost a close match at number eight, as both he and his Amherst opponent, sophomore Todd Lavine, battled through injuries during their five-game marathon match. Down 3-1, we needed a spark. First-years Dolan and Hurst and junior Brian Cady rose to the occasion, winning in four, five, and three games at the number 2, 4, and 3 positions, all respectively. Only Quan-Miranda and I had yet to play with Middlebury leading 4-3. After I lost in a dramatic five-game match, we only needed to wait five minutes for Quan-Miranda to seal a Middlebury victory. After losing the first two games, Quan-Miranda battled back to beat Amherst junior Brian Warner in five games.

Although our victory in the 17-18 playoff was a far cry from the epic and systematic continuation of the dynasty on courts 1, 2, and 3, we Middlebury College Panthers had achieved our goal of repeating as Summers Cup champions. Amherst played valiantly and fairly, but on that day, we emerged the victors.