Men’s squash places second at NESCACs

John Fitzgerald

No. 18 men’s squash (12–10) secured a surprise second-place finish at the NESCAC Championship this weekend, advancing to the final match with a 5-4 comeback win against Middlebury before falling to No. 2 Trinity by a score of 8-1.

The men entered the weekend as the third seed, carrying momentum from back-to-back 9-0 wins over Little Three rivals Amherst and Wesleyan on Jan. 26 and an upset of Franklin and Marshall on Jan. 18.

After dispatching sixth-seeded Bowdoin 8-1 in the quarterfinals, the men advanced to a rematch with second-seeded Middlebury. The Ephs avenged a 5-4 loss to the Panthers on Jan. 5, roaring back from a 4-1 deficit to prevail 5-4.

 “The match on Saturday night was one of the best I have ever coached,” head coach Zafi Levy ’01 said. “Our boys played fantastic squash and never gave up.”

The Ephs started slow against the Panthers. Co-captain Ben Eisenberg ’19 was defeated in a tight four-gamer. Wyatt Khosrowshahi ’21 traded game for game but ultimately fell 11-8 in a hard-fought five-game duel. Then, Carl Shuck ’20, who was ahead in the third game at 1-1 apiece, lost momentum and watched his lead slip away.

With the Panthers holding a 3-0 advantage in the match, the Ephs finally got on the board with a crucial sweep from David Pincus ’20. Pincus had lost to his Middlebury opponent in their previous two exchanges. 

Meanwhile, Krish Bhavnani ’22 was locked in a marathon match, trading point for point with his opponent. Leading 2-1, Bhavnani dropped a contested fourth game 11-8 and was edged 11-8 in the deciding game. With the overall match score at 4-1, the Panthers needed only one more point to eliminate the Ephs and clinch a berth in the finals. 

Shortly after, co-captain John Fitzgerald ’19 stepped onto court. Fitzgerald had lost to his Panthers opponent in the deciding match on Jan. 5, but like Pincus, avenged his earlier defeat with a 3-0 victory. 

A.J. Solecki ’21 and Jacob Bassil ’22 continued the rally for the Ephs. Within minutes of each other, Solecki and Bassil both claimed narrow victories in the fourth game, evening the overall match score at 4-4.

In the decider, William Means ’20 pulled away at the end of the fifth game to win 3-2. After five hours of squash on Saturday night, the Ephs had come back and toppled the Panthers on their home court. 

“The team exceeded all expectations this weekend,” said Eisenberg. “With everything on the line, future captain Will Means ’20 decisively won the final match.”

Sunday’s championship match against Trinity began with a 3-0 win from Eisenberg. He was followed by Bhavnani, who was neck-and-neck with his opponent through much of the match but narrowly lost in three games. Khosrowshahi then pushed his opponent to five games but ultimately lost after an 11-8 defeat in the fifth.

With the Ephs trailing 2-1, Pincus and Shuck both fell in three games. Soon after, Fitzgerald lost in three, which gave the Bantams the necessary fifth win to clinch the match. 

Bassil then played a marathon match but was edged out 11-9 in the fifth game, giving the Bantams a 6-1 lead. Solecki was up 2-0 before his opponent rallied three straight games to win the match and Means lost 3-0, securing a final tally of 8-1 for the Bantams.