Men's squash likely to compete at nationals

by Sabena Allen | 2/12/18 2:10am

As the men’s squash regular season comes to a close, the Big Green has placed itself in a position as one of the top eight teams in the College Squash Association eligible to compete for the Potter Cup at the 2018 Men’s National Team Championship in Hartford, Connecticut. Dartmouth has defeated No. 8 University of Rochester, No. 7 Princeton University and No. 9 Yale University in the last few weeks.

“It has been a very strong season overall, [with the team] only losing to the top three schools in the country,” Brandon de Otaduy Nam ’20 said. “Last year, we just missed the top eight, so it’s been great to have had crucial wins, such as Rochester and Drexel [University], that have pushed us through [to] the next level.”

De Otaduy Nam noted the 5-4 win over Rochester, who was ranked No. 8 nationally at the time, was especially exciting for the team. Although the Big Green had a slow start, the team clinched the win when Matthew Giegerich ’19 won the final match of the afternoon in five exciting sets.

“Everyone had finished playing, so our entire team watched as [Giegerich] won his match; it was very exciting,” de Otaduy Nam said.

Dartmouth has emphasized both mental fortitude and physical strength this season.

“We’ve always been a team that’s prided ourselves on our fitness levels and sort of the physicality that we bring to the game,” co-captain Alvin Heumann ’18 said.

This season, the team has focused on the mental aspect of the game in their practices.

“Squash is a very mental game, so even the fittest and most talented player can lose if he is not strong enough mentally,” de Otaduy Nam said. “This year, I think we’ve worked really hard to always stay composed and relaxed even if you are losing your match. I believe this has helped everyone play better and win matches when it really matters.”

With three consecutive wins to start the season in December 2017, the men hit their stride right away in preparation for the rest of their regular-season games.

“I think the start of the season was really important for us,” Heumann said. “We had a big swath of away matches where we played [the U.S. Naval Academy], [George Washington University] and Franklin & Marshall [College]. That’s always hard for us just because we’re traveling a ton. It’s the beginning of the season and a lot of people aren’t used to away crowds. The whole team, especially the freshmen, did a good job of starting the season on a high note.”

The matches against then-No. 6 University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, on Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, respectively, were vital to the team’s chance to compete for the Potter Cup.

Although the team lost to Penn in a tight 5-4 matchup, it rebounded with its best win of the season over Princeton to maintain its hold on a top eight spot.

“Both matches [last] weekend were as close as they could get,” Zachary Quayle ’19 said. “Penn and Princeton are both great teams, so we’re happy to have played two tightly contested matches and come out on top in one of them. Our win over Princeton makes it very likely that we’ll be in the ‘A Draw’ of nationals, meaning that we’d finish the season as one of the top eight teams in the nation. Just making the ‘A Draw’ would be an improvement over our ninth-place finish last year, so we’re pleased with our current trajectory.”

The team has had a goal of finishing in the top eight all season, according to Heumann. The chance for a national title in 2018 has been motivating the Big Green all season, especially with regard to improving one’s individual game.

“Everyone on our team is always listening to our coaches’ recommendations on technical and physical improvements,” Heumann said. “We’re a team that listens. We’re a physical team, and we’re a close team that gets along and has fun.”

This weekend, Dartmouth ended its regular season with an away match versus No. 13 Brown University and a home match against No. 9 Yale.

On Friday, the Big Green dispatched their opponents from Providence, Rhode Island 7-2. Dartmouth won every match in the first round of the day, clinching the victory without stress.

When the men hosted fellow top-10 and Ivy League opponent Yale, the Big Green also got off to a strong start, winning the first round and ultimately winning six of nine matches. The victory improved Dartmouth’s final record to 11-4.

As of this weekend, the Big Green is holding on to the number 5 spot in the College Squash Association’s rankings. Despite the loss to Dartmouth on Sunday, Yale is still a contender for a position in the CSA’s top eight.

This weekend’s results all but ensure Dartmouth’s well-earned shot at a national championship. If the rankings were to remain unchanged, the Big Green would face No. 4 St. Lawrence University in the first round of the Potter Cup. The two teams have yet to play this season.