Trinity v. Princeton

Last week I spent eight hours in Ferris Athletic Center. Not much in the squash world is going to keep me in one place for that long, but this was no ordinary event. It was Princeton v. Trinity, which in the past couple of seasons has become the marquee squash day in the country. 

Atlas Lives. That was two years ago. The iconic Squash Magazine cover shot, taken by Dick Druckman, of Goose Detter in full Bjorn-Borg knees-to-the-ground exultation, barely summed up the historic nature of Trinity’s victory over Princeton: a freshman saving a match ball against arguably the greatest player in intercollegiate squash history to win a five-gamer and keep Trinity’s win streak alive.

One of the reasons college squash is so absurdly exciting is that this sort of nailbiting (or “down to the fourth knuckle” as Jack Barnaby used to say) 5-4 wins have been relatively commonplace. I spent nearly a whole page (141) in my squash book detailing 5-4 dual matches, everything from Harvard outlasting Princeton in 1953 to Yale breaking Harvard’s streak in 1990. But this 2006 match, given Trinity’s streak, Yasser El Halaby’s stature and the sheer size of the crowd (just how many people were at Hemenway in February 1953?) has to make it the most amazing dual match in history.

This year, 6-3 Trinity and as the matches came in there was never really any doubt about the eventual winner. (Trinity v. Princeton was really twenty-three matches, as both teams played full squads; Trinity won 19-4.) But the scene was pretty rich, with a huge crowd numbering probably around a thousand. Hundreds of texting undergraduates filled the seats. Nervous parents and siblings stood in the balcony. People flew in for the night, people flew in for the day. Much of the Dartmouth men’s team drove down from Hanover. The Yale men’s team, led by coach Dave Talbott, came up from New Haven—they arrived so early that they even slipped onto the courts and hit some. A raft of ex-Trinity players came up from New York.

The size and the energy of the match is unparalleled in American squash. And the level is pretty good. Baset Chaudhry is something special, of course, but so are two 5 foot 7 freshmen, Randy Lim and Parth Sharma, who are not on the team just because its nickname is Bantam. Watching Simbarashe Muhwati track down ball after ball is a delight. And he plays #9. And what team like Princeton right now has had three sets of twins on its roster?

So the Trinity streak is at 176. It is going to be very close to the magic 200 number when Princeton v. Trinity square off in the winter of 2009. With only one senior on each team’s top nine squad, it will probably still be a little bit interesting.

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