Cornell placed fourth overall over the weekend at the College Squash Association’s National Men’s Team Championships — marking the highest finish in program history. The unprecedented weekend campaign began Friday afternoon in Princeton, N.J., when the No. 6 Red (13-7, 4-3 Ivy League) handed No. 3-ranked Yale (15-3, 6-1) an 8-1 upset, in Cornell’s first-ever quarterfinal win at the event.
“We came into [the match against Yale] with an opportunity of a lifetime — it was one of our only times to prove to Cornell who we really were because throughout the year we have these expectations and never fulfilled them,” said junior Arjun Gupta. “We were like this time we all have to come together one time, one time for nationals because this is where it all matters.”
The victory over the Bulldogs was only the third or the Red in the teams’ 53-meet series. Cornell entered Friday’s matchup hoping to avenge a 5-4 loss to Yale on Jan. 14. Defeating the Bulldogs ensured the Red a Top-4 finish in the Potter Cup.
“We came through and we all played as one and played together as a team,” Gupta said. “It was the only time that we beat Yale in [the current squad’s] history and the only time that Cornell has passed the quarterfinals in the national championship ... it meant a lot to us and [head coach Mark Devoy].
Junior Rishi Jalan (No. 9) and Gupta (No. 6) gave the Red its first two wins on Friday against Yale by beating each of their opponents in four sets. Jalan improved to 12-0 for the season with the win. Senior Thomas Spettigue finished the sweep for the first wave of matches, rallying from a two-games deficit to defeat Yale’s Richard Dodd at the No. 3-position. Freshman Ryan Todd (No. 8) improved Cornell’s lead to 4-0 with a five-game victory, before senior co-captain Alex Domenick (No. 2) beat Yale’s Hywel Robinson in three-straight games — clinching the victory for the Red. Senior Will Hartigan, junior Nick Sachvie and freshman Aditya Jagtap also won their matches.
On Saturday the Red faced No. 2-ranked Princeton (15-1, 7-0) in the national semi-finals; however, Cornell was unable to secure the win, eventually falling to the Tigers, 7-2. Spettigue and Jagtap gave the Red its only victories of the day at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Princeton went on to claim the national championship title the following afternoon, upsetting 13-time defending champion Trinity (16-1), 5-4.
The Red went racquet-to-racquet against Harvard (16-4, 5-2) in Sunday’s third-place match at Princeton’s Jadwin Squash Courts. Cornell was unable to stave off a Crimson win, ultimately falling to the Cambridge rival, 5-4.
“We ended up losing to Harvard, 5-4, but we all fought really hard,” Gupta said. “It could have gone either way, but we all fought hard and played well and that’s what counts. We’re not too disappointed with our loss to Harvard.”
After the first wave of matchups, Spettigue and Gupta provided Cornell with a 2-1 lead; however, Hartigan was the only Red player to secure a win in the second rotation. Coming down to the final three, junior Owen Butler defeated his opponent in the No. 7-position to give the Red its fourth point. The final two Cornell players were unable to overcome their Crimson counterparts, thus giving Harvard the 5-4 victory and third-place title.
“I lost my last collegiate match and I hate losing — anyone on my team will tell you that,” Domenick said. “But, I have no regrets for my squash career. As a whole, I have played on many U.S. teams and I’ve played very well. I thought this year I played very well. Even though it didn’t end the way I wanted, I have no regrets.”
While team competition has ended for Cornell’s squad, some players will travel to the CSA’s Individual Championships on March 2-4.
“Every year the Top-64 players play at the [College Squash Association’s Individual National Championships,] so a lot of Cornell players will go because ... a lot of our players will be in the Top-64,” Jalan said. “Last year Nick Sachvie was Rookie of the Year and finished No. 2 in the country, so we have great expectations for Cornell squash.”