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Saturday, September 25, 2021

New pecking order in US college squash?

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New Year heralds new order as colleges vie for National title

By SATYA SESHADRI – Squash Mad New York Correspondent 

In the United States, Collegiate Squash has grown tremendously over the years. There are now roughly 35 men’s and women’s college varsity squash programs and another 40 active club programs. The CSA (College Squash Association) is the collective name for the men’s and women’s associations.

Historically the sport has been dominated by Ivy League college/universities such as Harvard, Princeton and Yale,on the men’s side, with these three colleges winning the majority of the championships in the past.

Alex Gorgi (Brown) and Nicholas Hopcroft (Harvard)

I lived in India prior to 2003 and have had the honour to be recruited to a reputable college in the United States.

I got my degree from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where I played in the number one and two positions during my tenure there. I have been in the United States ever since graduation
coaching squash in New York.

College Squash in the United States is fascinating because it’s made a traditionally individual sport into a team sport. Each team contains 10 players, of which nine matches count towards the tally; the 10th match is an exhibition match.

The first team to notch five individual wins is awarded the team win. At the end of the season, college teams are placed in eight-team divisions based on their record and then compete in the Nationals for their final ranking. Most interestingly, the playing field seems to be getting leveled.

However, this is the first time in years Princeton University has dropped outside the top five, and rising teams such as St. Lawrence University, University of Rochester and Franklin and Marshall College have jumped into the fray.

Additionally, each year there is an individual tournament with players competing for the final individual rankings, determined in a 32-person draw. Invitation is based on year-long performance in the team matches.

We are halfway through the season in collegiate squash and things are getting heated. Nationally ranked Trinity still retains its number one ranking, with two Ivy League colleges, Harvard and Yale, behind them.

However, this is the first time in years Princeton University has dropped outside the top five, and rising teams such as St. Lawrence University, University of Rochester and Franklin and Marshall College have jumped into the fray.

January has been the turning point for Trinity College, as in past years they have managed to secure recruits mid-season and add to their depth chart and make it more difficult for opposing teams to defeat them.

However, a lot of international recruits are being approached by other teams as well to strengthen their rosters mid-season.

It will be interesting to see where top recruits end up after the mid-year. The word on the street is that none have had a successful time this year recruiting mid-year players. Only time will tell…

This is the year things will really begin to change at the top. Dominant teams such as Trinity and Princeton will have a tough task ahead of them to win national titles.

To many around the world, US Collegiate Squash does not hold much significance, although one needs to know that a lot of these top juniors who come from all over the world are high level players in their respective countries and have held world rankings in junior squash.

The level of play is nothing short of excellent. This is the year things will really begin to change at the top. Dominant teams such as Trinity and Princeton will have a tough task ahead of them to win national titles.

My prediction on the men’s side this year is as follows: 1) Harvard University 2) Trinity College 3) St. Lawrence University with numbers 4, 5, and 6 up for grabs between Yale, Rochester, Franklin and Marshall, and Cornell, sending Princeton out of the top 5 for the first time in history of collegiate squash.

On the women’s side, I see defending champions Harvard retain their championship, with Trinity, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton finishing right behind them.

These are just guesses, and being a college squash aficionado, I am thrilled to see some new teams dominating the pecking order on the men’s side.

Historically a number of finals have finished in a close margin, with a 6-3 or 5-4 victory, and this year promises to be nothing short of that.

Below is a list of colleges that have won the Men’s and Women’s team championships is the past five years:

Women’s Champions

2009: Princeton University
2010: Harvard University
2011: Yale University
2012: Harvard University
2013: Harvard University

Men’s Champions

2009: Trinity College
2010: Trinity College
2011: Trinity College
2012: Princeton University
2013: Trinity College

2013 Ivy League Scrimmages: Leslie Gill (Penn) and Oona Morris (Dartmouth) in action

Pictures by Michael T.Bello

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