It’s rare for a team ranked among the best in the nation to suffer a defeat in any sport. It’s downright unheard of for such a dominant squad to relinquish back-to-back competitions in the same weekend.
Nonetheless, the men’s squash team — who currently tote the top reputation of any team at UR with a No. 4 ranking in the U.S. — faced just this predicament when they were pitted against two other titans, No. 2 Trinity College and No. 5 Harvard University. The visiting Yellowjackets lost both matches by identical 7-2 scores, but salvaged a 6-3 decision over No. 7 Dartmouth College for a 1-2 record on the weekend.
Fuming after they saw their 252-match winning streak snapped by Yale University last week, the Trinity Bantams — who until this week were the top-ranked team in collegiate squash — were eager to take out their frustration on the Yellowjackets. And, after letting two early matches at the No. 3 and No. 9 positions slip away, the Bantams claimed the remaining seven matchups to put away the ’Jackets.
Senior Joe Chapman and junior Juan Pablo Gaviria made dents in Trinity’s armor to give the visitors an early lead. Chapman bested Miled Zarazua Ramirez in a grueling five sets (11-4, 9-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9), while Gaviria topped Moustafa Hamada in four (12-14, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8).
There was considerable optimism for the Yellowjackets at this point, as they considered the prospect of becoming the latest group to oust the once-dominant Bantams.
It was all downhill after Chapman and Gaviria’s victories, however, as Trinity athletes outplayed their UR opponents in the next three matchups to take a lead they would never lose. The Yellowjackets’ No. 2 senior Benjamin Fischer fell (6-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-10) to Antonio Diaz in four sets, while the yellow and blue’s No. 5 senior Matt Domenick lost in four sets and No. 8 freshman Mohamed Abdel Maksoud surrendered in four.
No. 6 junior Oscar Lopez Hidalgo put up a great fight against the Bantams’ Vrishab Kotian, coming back from being down 0-2 (8-11, 2-11) to even the score with back-to-back wins (11-9, 13-11), but ended up just shy of the victory, losing in extra points, 12-14.
Down to their final players, the Yellowjackets turned to No. 4 junior Adam Perkiomaki and No. 7 sophomore Karm Kumar to save the day. Perkiomaki played a long and exhausting match but lost in four (11-10, 10-11, 13-11, 13-11). Kumar was swept in three to seal the day for the Bantams.
UR met a similar fate when they tackled the Harvard Crimson. Gaviria again salvaged a match for the Yellowjackets in his sweep of Thomas Mullaney, and Maksoud won a tough bout with Harvard’s Zeke Sherl (11-5, 11-5, 4-11, 11-9), but managed little else on a day that just didn’t go the visitors’ way. The Yellowjackets took two matches to five sets and were only swept once — at No. 1, where junior Andres Duany fell to the Crimson’s Ali Farag (6-8, 6-11, 3-11).
The weekend wasn’t a complete loss for the Yellowjackets, however, as the team showed great resilience Sunday, Jan. 29 when they faced No. 7 Dartmouth College. The supporting cast played a major role in the win, as UR players in the No. 2 through nine slots won all but one of the contests.
Gaviria picked up right where he left off, defeating the Green Wave’s Bayard Kuensell (6-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6) to go a perfect 3-0 on the weekend. Similarly, Chapman easily downed Luke Lee (11-9, 11-4, 11-8) to improve his three day record to 2-1.
Unlike his Saturday performance, Periomaki was on the winning end of a thrilling five-game marathon Sunday over Christopher Jung, while Kumar and Maksoud pulled out huge wins in five games as well.
The Yellowjackets complete the regular season this weekend when they host Franklin and Marshall College.
Bernstein is a member of the class of 2014.