Men’s squash sends five to Molloy Division of Individual Nationals

With its season concluded and a national ranking of 10th secured after team Nationals, men’s squash (14-7) addressed its last order of business for the year at the Individual Nationals tournament last weekend at Trinity. The team sent its top five competitors to the Molloy ‘B’ Division, a 64-player, six round free-for-all for players ranked outside the top 32. Players are initially arranged in the main draw bracket: Losers from each matchup fall to the consolation bracket that corresponds to the round in which they dropped out of main draw competition. Tri-captains Ethan Buchsbaum ’10 and Christian Henze ’10 both came up with tremendous results in their last appearances at Individuals, with top teammates Will Gruner ’11, Will Morris ’12 and Nick Marks ’13 emphasizing the team’s presence in the tournament further with a number of victories.

For Buchsbaum and Henze, the tournament proved to be a strong validation of their leadership over a solid season. Buchsbaum had an unusual start to the tournament, not playing in either of the first two rounds after a first round bye was followed by a second round default win, as his opponent failed to appear. Making it to the third round without lifting a racquet meant that he had no opportunity to establish himself before facing major competition: Buschsbaum fell to his opponent, Yale’s CJ Plimpton, after winning the first game. Fortunately, one match was all it took to find his rhythm, as the Eph remedied his loss with two strong wins in the third consolation bracket against players from Cornell and Harvard who had taken a point from Williams in the regular season. Both matches were testaments to the focus and skill that made him the Ephs’ No. 1 throughout the season. After battling to the finals of the third round consolation bracket, Buchsbaum put up an aggressive fight against Yale’s Naishadh Lalwani before falling just short of a winning finish.

Henze’s tournament looked good from the start, with a five-game win in the first round over St. Lawrence No. 2 Amay Merchant. The second round saw Henze squaring off against his counterpart from Bates, Will Katz, who had edged him out in two incredibly close matches earlier this season. Henze refused to end his career on such a note, storming past his season-long rival in four games. Though he lost in the next round to the tournament’s second seed after a spirited battle in the third round consolation final, Henze’s second-round main draw win will be remembered as a fitting end to his four years on the team.

Meanwhile, Gruner and Morris crossed paths after four rounds of play, resulting in a brutal five-game match that showcased the strength of the Ephs’ returning talent. Before the intrasquad matchup, Gruner breezed through his first round match against James Patterson from Virginia, but fell in the second round in four games to Penn’s No. 1 player. He advanced to meet teammate Morris after a resurgent win over the Bates No. 2, Jordan Greenberg.

Meanwhile, Morris had a difficult start after his bye in the first round, losing to one of the new recruits on Rochester’s powerhouse squad, but rebounded spectacularly to race past George Washington’s top player to secure a match with Gruner in the quarterfinals of the second-round consolation bracket. The match between the team’s two top returning players was an impressive display of endurance and skill. The Ephs battled in a closely contested, back-and-forth marathon, trading games twice to send the match to a fifth set. Gruner, who had battled to seize the fourth, fell short in the last game, and Morris seized a victory in fine style. Morris justified his win over his teammate with two more great performances: The Eph downed Brown’s Adrian Leanza before overturning Leanza’s teammate Brad Thomson in another grueling five-game win for the second round consolation bracket win.

Marks represented the Ephs’ freshman class with great poise in his first Individual Nationals. He surged back from a 2-1 deficit in the first round to win in five against Brown’s Benjamin Clayman, but fell in the second round to Rishi Jalan of Cornell. He then scored a monumental victory for himself and his team with a four-game victory over Amherst’s No. 1 Brian Warner, a win made all the more satisfying by the fact that Marks played fifth for the Ephs during the season. Though his run was cut short the following round with a very narrow loss in five games to Adrian Leanza, Marks’ teammates avenged him, defeating in later matches both of the players who had downed the Eph.

Head Coach Zafi Levy was very pleased with the individual triumphs of each player. “I was really proud of our players –  we had four players in the last day of the tournament, which was more than all but one school,” he said. The one school that matched Williams was Harvard, also placing four competitors in the final day of play. “I was really pleased with the way our players competed and represented themselves and the College [this weekend].”

The men’s squad will graduate four seniors this year, but will retain 13 Ephs to build on this season’s momentum in hopes of a shot at a top eight national ranking for the 2010-11 season.