Boston, MA — The Trinity College Bantams defeated Yale 5-4 this afternoon to win their thirteenth consecutive national title at Harvard’s Murr Center. Chris Binnie’s 3-1 win over Richard Dodd clinched the win for the Bantams.
Thanks to a fresh coat of snow overnight, the Harvard campus was the picture of a classic New England winter morning, the perfect backdrop for a showdown of two storied squash programs.
Coming into this afternoon’s match, the Trinity men, who are coached by Paul Assaiante, were ranked number 1 in the nation and had a 19-0 record. The Bantams were twelve-time defending national champions riding a 243-match winning streak, the longest in the history of varsity intercollegiate sports in the United States.
Trinity’s route to the finals went through Franklin & Marshall in the first round, a 9-0 win, and through Rochester in the semifinals, a 6-3 win.
Yale advanced to the final with an 8-1 win over Dartmouth in the opening round and a 7-2 win over Princeton in the semifinals. The Bulldogs, who are coached by Dave Talbott and are the 2011 Ivy League champions, were the number 2 seed in the tournament and had a 15-1 record coming into the match.
The Bulldogs’ sole loss in the regular season was to Trinity in Hartford in January. Yale came into that match seeking to avenge a loss to Trinity at home in last year’s national team final. That match, which Trinity won 6-3, was overshadowed by an incident of poor sportsmanship that received national attention.
The January showdown between the two teams was intense but sporting. Yale was looking to make history, and through the first round of matches it felt like the Bulldogs might do just that. Yale’s Robert Berner won in four at number 9, and his teammate Richard Dodd and Trinity’s Andres Vargas played one endless rally after another, with Dodd nearly forcing a fifth game. Then Trinity began to pull away. John Roberts won in five for Yale at number 8, but that was the only other Yale victory. Trinity won the top seven matches to take the overall win.
Though Trinity’s win in January was decisive, there was suspense before today’s final because most of the individual match-ups were different. Trinity had the same top seven players, but sophomore Juan Flores played at number 8 instead of Travis Judson, and senior Daniel Echevarria played at number 9 instead of Matthew Mackin. Hywel Robinson stayed at number 1 for Yale, but the rest of the Bulldogs’ line-up changed. With Neil Martin out at 7, Berner moved up from 9 to 8, and CJ Plimpton moved from 10 to 9. Kenneth Chan, who won the first game off of Parth Sharma at number 2 in January, moved down to 3, and senior captain Naishadh Lalwani, who had won a game off of Chris Binnie at 4, moved to 2. With Lalwani moving up, Dodd slid down to 4. Roberts moved from 8 to 5, pushing John Fulham and Ryan Dowd each down one spot to 6 and 7, respectively.
Only the number 1 match-up between Robinson and Trinity’s Vikram Malhotra was the same as in January, and that gave today’s match a very different feel. After the first round of matches, Yale led 2-1 thanks to wins at #3 from Kenny Chan and at #9 from C.J. Plimpton. Antonio Dias put the Bantams on the board with a win at #6.
The matches on the glass exhibition court finished first, as Trinity’s Parth Sharma and Vikram Malhotra both won their matches. At #8 Robbie Berner won for Yale, and then Johan Detter won at #7 for Trinity.
The match hinged upon the action on court #5. John Roberts of Yale looked to win at number 5, but Randy Lim came back to take the match to five games. Roberts pulled out a win in the final points of an epic contest. With Roberts’ win, the score was tied 4-4.
In the deciding match, Binnie won the first game with a strong performance, though Dodd kept the score very tight. The second game was equally close, but Binnie pulled out another win thanks in part to some stunning volleys. Dodd battled back, making some remarkable gets, and won the third game, taking it to a fourth game. Binnie started to run up the score, and though Dodd looked like he was closing in on the Trinity senior, it wasn’t enough. Binnie won, and after he and Dodd shook hands, the Bantams rushed the court.
Trinity’s winning streak now stands at 244 matches and thirteen consecutive national titles.
Today’s match, like last week’s women’s final, was college squash at its finest. Congratulations to all the players on a remarkable season!