Hartford, CT — Amr Khaled Khalifa of St. Lawrence University defeated Todd Harrity of Princeton by a score of 3-0 to win the Pool Trophy and the 2013 men’s individual national title today at Trinity College’s Kellner Squash Center.
Harrity, a senior from Philadelphia, has amassed an impressive squash resume during his four years with the Tigers. After reaching the finals of the 2010 Pool Trophy, he won the 2011 individual title. In 2012, he helped Princeton win the Men’s National Team Championship, and earlier this season, he teamed up with fellow Tiger Taylor Tutrone to win the 2013 Men’s Intercollegiate Doubles Championship. At the 2013 Men’s National Team Championships, he was presented with the Skillman Award, the highest individual honor in men’s college squash, recognizing both his on-court accomplishments and his sportsmanship.
Khalifa, a first-year player from Cairo, Egypt, may be a newcomer to the college game, but he’s not without his own squash bona fides. He won the World Junior individual title in 2010, helping Egypt claim the 2010 World Junior team championship as well. Since joining the Saints’ line-up in January, he has not lost a college match and has made an immediate impact on the up-and-coming St. Lawrence program. He played an instrumental role in leading the team to its first appearance in the A Division of the Men’s National Team Championships, a run that included an unprecedented victory over Cornell University and the highest finish — sixth — in program history.
Princeton and St. Lawrence did not play each other this season, so Harrity and Khalifa had not yet faced each other in the college arena.
Harrity came into the tournament as the top seed. He had marched through the draw in a performance reminiscent of his 2011 title campaign. He defeated Omar Sobhy (George Washington), Faraz Khan (Rochester), Nick Sachvie (Cornell), and Ahmed Abdel Khalek (Bates) en route to the finals. Sachvie had been Harrity’s opponent in the 2011 Pool Trophy finals, and Abdel Khalek had upset 2012 finalist Ramit Tandon of Columbia in the quarterfinals. Harrity dispatched all of his opponents in three games.
Khalifa, the third seed, opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Trinity’s Johan Detter, followed by another 3-0 victory against Brandon McLaughlin of Harvard. In the quarterfinals, Princeton sophomore Tyler Osborne won his second game against Khalifa in extra points, but the St. Lawrence freshman regrouped to advance in four. Khalifa’s semifinal against defending Pool Trophy champion Ali Farag of Harvard was the most thrilling match of the night. Down 0-2 in games to start, Khalifa battled back to win the match 13-11 in the fifth.
The Pool Trophy final began conservatively, with both players hitting good length. Two let balls passed before Harrity was the first to get on the board. He went up 2-0 and began to up the pressure on Khalifa, who responded by catching Harrity at 2-all. After a long point, Khalifa tinned a drop shot, giving Harrity a 4-2 lead. Khalifa won the next two points on an unreturnable forehand drop and dying length, and the score was tied 4-all. He began to open up a lead. After a tin and a mishit, Harrity again tried increase the pressure on Khalifa, but the St. Lawrence freshman was on a roll. Harrity did not score again, and the game ended on three successive strokes to Khalifa.
Like the first game, the second opened with a series of let balls. This time, however, it was Khalifa who went out to a quick lead. Harrity closed in on him at 5-6, when Khalifa tinned a low, hard backhand. He won the next point on the same shot, executed perfectly, and was off and running again. Harrity hit a magnificent forehand volley kill to bring the score to 8-6, but that was the last point he would win in the game. As the game progressed, both players punctuated long rallies with great shots, but Khalifa always seemed to have the edge. At game ball he rolled a volley emphatically to take the second game, 11-6.
The third game was the closest of the match. Khalifa went up 6-3, but Harrity rocketed a hard cross-court that sent Khalifa scrambling, allowing Harrity to draw a point closer. A few points later, Harrity hit a drop so tight Khalifa questioned whether it was up, but the referees all affirmed it was good. Khalifa seemed rattled, and Harrity seized the opportunity, tying the score 7-all and then 8-all. There were let balls on two long points, and a tin from Khalifa and aggressive play from Harrity gave the Princeton senior game ball. A missed shot from Harrity kept Khalifa in it, and he won the next two points on length and a nick. He was back in control. When he won the next point, he raised his arms in the air in celebration, the new national champion.
The final score was 11-4, 11-6, 12-10 to Khalifa.
For Harrity, it was a bittersweet end to a remarkable college career. Yet the match also showcased how his game had evolved over his time at Princeton. Four years ago, Harrity faced Colin West in the Pool Trophy final at Trinity. After a close second game, Harrity seemed to run out of steam in the third, letting West roll largely unimpeded to victory. Today, the level of Harrity’s game rose throughout the match, and he pushed Khalifa every step of the way. Always a sportsman, Harrity showed that he has become a more mature, confident, and resilient player over the course of his college career.
For Khalifa, this is just the beginning. He showcased different kinds of brilliant play in both the finals and semifinals, and he matched Harrity’s sportsmanship on court. His national title is a first in men’s squash for St. Lawrence; the Saints have never won a men’s individual or team A Division title before.
Congratulations to Amr Khaled Khalifa, 2013 Men’s Individual Champion!