Hartford, CT — Trinity defeated St. Lawrence 7-2 before a home crowd at the Kellner Squash Center, winning the Potter Cup and the 2015 national men’s team title.
For the first time in Men’s National Team Championships (NTC) history, the contest for the national title was between two non-Ivy institutions. At least one Ivy League team has reached the Potter Cup final since the NTC began in 1989.
Of course, Trinity’s appearance in the Potter Cup is nothing new; this is the 19th consecutive year the Bantams have reached the final. Between 1998 and 2012, Trinity didn’t lose a match, an unprecedented streak that included 13 national titles. But the presence of a team other than Harvard, Yale, or Princeton — the only other teams to reach the NTC finals — is a significant change, especially since this year also marks the first time the two finalists have been from NCAA DIII institutions.
St. Lawrence didn’t even have a varsity squash program when Trinity started winning national titles. The Saints’ first season as a varsity was 1999-2000. They finished that season ranked 30th in the nation, at a time when there were only 36 ranked teams. Since then, the Saints have been steadily climbing the rankings under the leadership of head coach Chris Abplanalp, winning back-to-back C Division (Summers Cup) titles in 2007 and 2008. By 2013, they had reached the A Division, where they lost 1-8 in the first round to eventual champions Trinity.
This season, both St. Lawrence and Trinity had only one loss coming into the championship weekend. Trinity had lost 4-5 to Rochester, and St. Lawrence had lost 2-7 to Trinity in mid-January. Trinity had won the 2015 NESCAC championship, and St. Lawrence had won the Liberty League title back in November by beating Rochester 6-3.
In the opening round of Potter Cup play, St. Lawrence swept Franklin and Marshall 9-0, while Trinity defeated Penn 8-1. In the semifinals, Trinity took care of A Division newcomers Columbia, winning 7-2. St. Lawrence faced Harvard, the defending national champions, and while the Saints were able to clinch a berth in the final relatively early, it was a long, physical match. The final score was St. Lawrence 5, Harvard 4.
Today’s final began with the #3, #6, and #9 matches. At #3, Trinity’s Rick Penders faced St. Lawrence’s Ahmed Bayoumy, and at #6, St. Lawrence’s Hussein Elrayes took on Trinity’s James Evans. St. Lawrence’s Chris Fernandez played Omar Allaudin of Trinity at #9; aside from Fernandez, a senior tri-captain, all the players in the first flight of matches were first-year players.
Penders took control of the #3 match, winning in three games. At #9, Allaudin and Fernandez were matched point for point through two games, but Allaudin maintained enough of an edge to win 13-11 and then 11-9. Fernandez couldn’t close the gap, and Allaudin won 11-5 in the third to take the match. Evans claimed the first game at #6, but Elrayes came back to win the next two. Evans rallied to tie the match 2-all in games, electrifying the crowd. Elrayes jumped out to an early lead in the fifth game, but Evans came back and ran up the score. Though Elrayes started to close the gap, it wasn’t enough: Evans won 11-7 in the fifth. Trinity led 3-0 after the first round of matches.
The match-ups in the second wave were Trinity senior Miled Zarazua versus St. Lawrence freshman Edgar Zayas at #2; St. Lawrence senior tri-captain Anderson Good versus Trinity senior co-captain Karan Malik at #5; and Trinity sophomore Affeeq Ismail versus St. Lawrence freshman Lockie Munro at #8.
Zarazua trailed Zayas throughout much of a close game 1, but the Trinity senior’s experience showed: he tied the game at 9-all and went on to win 11-9. Zarazua came out strong in the second game, building up a sizable lead, but Zayas began to regroup and tied the match 1-1 with an 11-9 win. Zayas took control in the third and won 11-6, but the fourth game was again very close. At game ball, Zarazua sent Zayas scrambling across the court. Zayas dove, recovered, and lunged for another ball from Zarazua, but he couldn’t make it. Zarazua’s 11-9 win forced a fifth game.
As Zayas and Zarazua were playing, cheers rose from the court behind them as Malik defeated Good in three games. Trinity was up four matches overall, but Zayas was unfazed. Zarazua held him at nine points as long as possible, but the freshman took the final game 11-8, giving the Saints their first point.
The #8 match was just as tight. Munro won the first game 11-8, and Ismail answered by winning the second 11-7. The third game went to tie-breakers, and Munro prevailed again. Ismail came back strong in the fourth game, winning 11-4. Munro and Ismail went point for point in the fifth, and they were tied at 8-all. Then Ismail began to pull away. Munro reached nine points but that was it. Ismail won 11-9 in the fifth, and the Bantams had their fifth match. There were matches left to be played, but the final outcome was decided: Trinity had won the 2015 Men’s National Team Championship!
The final score was Trinity 7, St. Lawrence 2.
The Bantams are led by head coach Paul Assaiante and assistant coaches Chris Binnie and Vikram Malhotra. Malik and Moustafa Hamada are co-captains. This is Trinity’s fifteenth national title.