When I arrived at the Jadwin squash courts on Sunday, about 45 minutes before the national championship match began, I knew that my only chance to actually see any squash being played would be to grab a seat right away and stay there no matter what. I settled for a spot near the left side of Court 3, which also offered a view of the neighboring court’s scoreboard. As it turned out, I picked the perfect place.
Sure enough, the crowd was standing-room-only well before the match began, as bystanders piled three rows deep behind the seats (and shorter fans were left to suffer). Each time I thought people couldn’t be packed any tighter, more came. Princeton had the home support, but the Trinity dynasty travels quite well, and plenty of fans were wearing blue and gold and cheering at inconvenient times.
Since nobody alone could see more than a small piece of the story as it was being written, text messages flew through the C-floor of Jadwin, relaying news of a 3-0 victory by Tyler Osborne ’15 to the outer courts and a 3-2 squeaker by Clay Blackiston ’12 back inside as Princeton took an early 2-1 lead. But in the second shift, the tone shifted. Fans on the outer courts said No. 2 Chris Callis ’12 had to win; inside, he lost in five. When Samuel Kang ’15 fell in four excruciatingly long games, Trinity was up 4-2 and needed only one more win to retain its crown.
New players brought a new wave of energy. Dylan Ward ’14 continued a stellar season, winning games two, three, and four easily at No. 7, while No. 1 Todd Harrity ’13 took care of business in three. That left only Kelly Shannon ’12 and Reinhold Hergeth, as hundreds and hundreds of people converged on my Court 3 for a glimpse of the action.
Shannon, who missed the early part of the season with a shoulder injury, has an appearance that is more “baseball catcher” than “squash player.” But his incredible hands make up for any shortcoming in agility, and after falling behind 8-4, the senior blitzed back to win the first game 13-11. He dominated the second game as well, including a behind-the-back volley to win a late point that seemed an omen of good fortune.
But Princeton’s seniors, including Shannon, knew better than to assume anything. In 2009, the last time the Tigers reached the championship — and the last time it was held at Jadwin — Mauricio Sanchez ’09 was ahead 2-0 in the deciding match before Trinity’s Baset Chaudhry pulled off a shocking comeback. Seven times in the last 13 years, the Tigers faced Trinity in the finals; seven times, they came up short.
This year, there would be no Trinity comeback, and there would be no eighth time. Shannon stayed in control, winning with shots to all four corners, and when his final touch dipped softly off the right side of the wall, Princeton had finally dethroned Trinity. Shannon said afterward that he didn’t know his was the fifth victory, but as fans and teammates leapt over the wall and onto his court to celebrate, he found out soon enough.
In breaking Trinity’s 13-year championship streak, the Tigers kept one of their own alive: Since 1971-72 — that’s 41 school years — at least one Princeton team or athlete has won a national championship. No group has contributed to that more than the men’s and women’s squash teams — 17 times, the streak has continued only because of a squash championship, including Harrity’s individual title last year.
And for me and many spectators on Sunday afternoon, this was the best of the 41 years of championships, because I was there to see it.
Mack Darrow ’13 led MEN’S BASKETBALL to a 77-66 victory on ESPNU on Friday, scoring a career-high 19 points and grabbing four offensive rebounds in Princeton’s insanely effective second half. Head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 called Darrow the Tigers’ “most efficient player,” an assertion backed up by the stats (according to kenpom.com, he leads the team by a wide margin in offensive rating). After the game, Darrow explained his “Mack-chine” nickname: “I’m awkward, I’m robotic, and I don’t move like a Division I athlete. And I think you see that. But hey, it works.”
Darrow also threw down a dunk in Saturday night’s win over Cornell, but it was no match for Ian Hummer’s monster slam just moments earlier (video below, courtesy of GoPrincetonTigers.com). I have yet to come across anybody who can remember a similarly impressive dunk in Princeton history.
No team has a stranger schedule than WRESTLING. On Saturday, the Tigers took on Penn at 1 p.m. in Dillon Gymnasium in their home finale, which the Quakers won 24-10. Instead of relaxing after a tough match, the team hopped on a bus and drove an hour-plus to a 7 p.m. meet at Lehigh, which it lost 38-4. That wasn’t even the tightest multi-state trip of the season: Two weekends ago, the Tigers faced Brown at 3 p.m. before competing at Boston University at 7:30. Perhaps the trips took a toll: Princeton also lost both of those matches. The Tigers will host the EIWA Championships at Jadwin Gym March 3-4.
Though it feels like winter just started — or, perhaps more accurately, winter never started — lacrosse season begins this week. MEN’S LACROSSE hopes to recover from an injury-plagued 2011 campaign and send three-time All-Americas Chad Wiedmaier ’12 and Tyler Fiorito ’12 off on a good note. Princeton, ranked 11th nationally by Inside Lacrosse, will again face a brutal non-conference schedule, including No. 12 Hofstra, No. 2 Johns Hopkins, No. 6 North Carolina, No. 10 Villanova and No. 7 Syracuse. WOMEN’S LACROSSE, an NCAA quarterfinalist last year, opens its season Feb. 25 at Villanova (coached by Julie [Shaner] Young ’01). The Tigers held the No. 8 spot in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) preseason poll.
Kevin Whitaker ’13 is an economics major and Daily Princetonian sports editor.