Monday, February 16, 2009

Squash, A Look Back and Ahead

If you were near Jadwin Gym Saturday afternoon, you might have noticed that throngs of people were heading into the building. If you were on the balcony, you might have noticed that you kept hearing noise coming from somewhere below.

Jadwin Gym hosted a wild scene Saturday, when Trinity edged Princeton 5-4 to win its 199th straight match. The gallery on C level was jammed with fans from both schools to the point that seeing the action on any of the three courts was nearly impossible.

And that was nothing compared to what awaits. Princeton and Trinity will be back at it this coming weekend as Princeton hosts the CSA national men's team championships, and the two will be favored to meet in a rematch for the title Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, the women were up in Cambridge last weekend for the Howe Cup, which is the women's national team championships. Princeton won for the third straight time, edging host Harvard 5-4 as Amanda Seibert rallied to win the final two games of her match at No. 1.

The championship, which gives Princeton a team or individual national champion for the 23rd straight year, was well-earned even before Sunday's thriller. The Tigers had to overcome a huge challenge from Trinity in the semis, winning 5-4 after Kaitlin Sennatt fought off a match ball and went on to win.

If you shrug all this off as "well it's only squash," TigerBlog says you couldn't be more wrong. Princeton had 38 varsity teams, and few are set up for drama the way squash is.

For starters, the spectators are right on top of the players, who are out on a court one-on-one with nowhere to hide. Also, you need to get five wins, and the point at No. 9 counts just as much as the one at No. 1.

Mostly, though, you can't run out the clock in squash. You have to win every point, and the momentum can - and does - change so quickly. Time and again, matches that seemed to be over in the third or fourth game head to a dramatic fifth. Time and again, games that seem over at 8-2 are reversed.

The success of the Princeton teams - and more importantly the desire of coaches Bob Callahan and Gail Ramsay to help their sport expand on a more egalitarian level - has led to a huge jump in lunchtime squash in the Jadwin. The exercise factor, coupled with the competitive nature of the game, makes it perfect for players on all levels throughout the athletic department.

TigerBlog has seen all of the novices play for the first time. They come out cocky, talking about how great they were at racquetball, and then they can't believe how much they get wiped out chasing the little black ball all over. Football coaches. Assistant women's soccer coach Scott Champ. Administrators. They're all drifting from lunchtime basketball to try squash.

But that's for during the week. For this weekend, the level of play goes all the way up to the top floor. It'll be a zoo on C-level.

It's worth the trip.


Anonymous said...

Is there a list somewhere of the national championships won over the past 23 years?

Princeton OAC said...

TigerBlog started working at Princeton in 1994. Since then, it's been a matter of updating each year as either a team or individual won. The sports that have contributed to this list during that time are men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's rowing, men's and women's fencing, men's and women's squash and men's track and field. As for the complete list dating back 23 years, TigerBlog doesn't have it compiled.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about squash are spot on. The elements that made boxing a great spectator sport are present in squash. Two competitors are mano-a-mano on the squash court, in such close proximity to the fans, you know when a player is fatigued, angry, confident, you see both their performance and their emotions. There's an intimacy in squash between spectator and athlete that's no longer present in football, baseball, basketball or hockey.
It's a sport requiring great physical stamina. I once read that the three sports with the greatest physical demands are boxing, hockey and squash in that order.
There's a 90 second break between games where a strategy session can change the course of the match. Strategy is complex, squash has been called chess with rackets or three dimensional tennis. Princeton's men's assistant coach, Neil Pomphrey, Bob Callahan always says he's the best match coach he's ever seen, is a professor in the physics department.
You are right again in noting that squash as a team sport only increases the drama. Fans race from court to court across Jadwin as invariably it will come down to one deciding match. This weekend's semifinal against Trinity ended on one point, 9-9 in the fifth game as junior Kaitlin Sennatt served (and won)the game, her match, Princeton's fifth win and the right to play in the finals against Harvard. Thrilling.

Anonymous said...

It is six o'clock on Sunday evening. The finals of the CSA championships have been played. There is a winner and a loser to the historic match that began at 1:30 or four and one half hours ago.

And for some reason in this world of hand held phones, computers and internet accessibility, no one at Princeton has posted the results, win or lose. It strikes me as near-sighted that nothing is posted, nothing emailed. Nothing! My feeling is that had Princeton won, someone would be so exultant they would have done this immediately, and so I await the eventual, untimely post an hour or a day from now with trepidation, anticipating the worst.

This is the case with many sports results at colleges. Often, it seems to have to do with ticket sales or an attempt to restrict access so that a profit may be made, but this is not the modern business model at all. There is a service element involved, and a matter of alumni loyalty, too. If feels distinctly as though the Development or Athletic offices are still trying to make money by nickel and diming, rather than keep us engaged and feeling generous, going for small change instead of something much more important and financially greater, at risk of alienating friends.

In my opinion, this is really short-sighted, if anyone is listening. Gary Walters are you reading this? It is akin to charging admission to an event instead of opening up the tent. It is a distinctly different philosophy, one that works out of scarcity instead of wealth. There is no question about which one works better today. Charlie Whitin P'73

Rob said...

Who won the match today vs Trinity for the National Championship? I heard it was 3 all with 2 matches in the fifth game! Could someone report on it?

Bob said...

From Western Mass Squash:

2009 Men’s National Team Championships Wrap Up - Trinity Defeats Princeton

Princeton, NJ — In an epic six hour match to conclude the 2009 College Squash Association Men’s National Team Championships, Trinity College narrowly defeated Princeton University. The Bantams and Tigers traded matches back and forth.

Trinity defeats Princeton, 5-4:

1. Baset Chaudhry (T) d. Mauricio Sanchez 3-2
2. Gustav Detter (T) d. Kimlee Wong 3-2
3. Manek Mathur (T) d. Chris Callis 3-1
4. Parth Sharma (T) d. David Letourneau 3-2
5. David Canner (P) d. Randy Lim 3-1
6. Hesham El Halaby (P) d. Supreet Singh 3-2
7. Kelly Shannon (P) d. Andres Vargas 3-2
8. Vikram Malhotra (T) d. Santiago Imberton 3-0
9. Peter Sopher (P) d. Rushabh Vora 3-1

More details about the tournament to come.

[Note that the match was 6 hours long, ending at 7:30PM, which is why no results were available at 6PM. Whoda thunk it?]