New Haven, CT — Yale defeated the Trinity College men’s squash team today, ending the longest winning streak in the history of varsity intercollegiate sports in the United States.
Playing at Yale’s Brady Squash Center, Yale upset the top-ranked Bantams by a score of 5-4. The Bulldogs, who are coached by Dave Talbott, are the first team to defeat Trinity since 1998, when the Bantams’ record-breaking 252-match streak began.
Trinity’s streak far surpasses the number of wins of other notable intercollegiate winning streaks. Yale’s swimming team had a 201-meet winning streak between 1940 and 1961. Miami’s men’s tennis team won 137 matches between 1957 and 1964, and the UCLA men’s basketball team won 88 in a row under John Wooden in the early 1970s. More recently, Penn State’s women’s volleyball team won 109 matches in a streak that ended in 2010, and the UConn women’s basketball team won 90 games in a streak that ended last December.
Trinity has dominated men’s college squash for over a decade, taking 13 consecutive national titles back to Hartford. They also won the inaugural New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament in 2007 and have successfully defended their title every year since.
The Bantams have not been without formidable opponents, though. Harvard, the last team to beat Trinity, nearly defeated them in the 2004 and 2007 national team finals.
Some of the Bantams’ most dramatic wins during the streak came against Princeton. During the 2005-2006 season, freshman Gustav Detter battled back from match point to defeat four-time national individual champion Yasser El Halaby and keep the streak alive. In the 2008-2009 Potter Cup finals, defending national individual champion Baset Chaudhry came from behind in the fifth game to defeat Mauricio Sanchez and clinch Trinity’s eleventh national title.
Yale came within a match of upsetting Trinity in last season’s championship finals, but the Bantams prevailed 5-4 with a clutch performance by Chris Binnie.
Coming into the 2011-2012 season, Trinity had lost twelve players to graduation, including four 2010-2011 All-Americans. Playing with a substantially different line-up, the Bantams opened their season with six 9-0 victories, securing their 250th-straight win in a match with Williams on December 10. They defeated sixth-ranked Cornell and eighth-ranked Franklin & Marshall in the week before the Yale match.
Yale was also undefeated going into the match, with wins over four top-twenty teams. Since returning from the winter break, the Bulldogs beat Columbia and Williams decisively and edged out Cornell 5-4. Currently ranked second, the Bulldogs will likely move to the top spot in the national rankings with this win.
Tonight’s match was incredibly close. Trinity got on the board first, thanks to a 3-1 win at #3 from Miled Zarazua. The two teams split the other two first-round matches, which both went to five games. Trinity took the #9 match, while Yale captured #6.
In the second round, Yale quickly evened the score with a 3-0 win from Hywel Robinson at #2. The Bulldogs pulled ahead with a 3-1 win at #5 from captain Ryan Dowd. While Trinity’s Matthew Mackin and Yale’s Sam Clayman battled it out at #8, the Bantams posted another win at #1 from co-captain Vikram Malhotra. Clayman jumped to the lead in the fifth game, but Mackin pulled out a win to bring the overall match score to 4-3 in Trinity’s favor.
After Yale’s Robert Berner evened the score with a victory at #7, the match came down to the #4 contest between Trinity’s Johan Detter, the brother of Gustav, and Yale’s John Roberts. Roberts clinched the history-making match for Yale with a win in the fifth.
Men’s and women’s college squash has become increasingly competitive since Trinity’s streak began. A number of schools — including Columbia, Drexel, George Washington, Middlebury, and Stanford — have added varsity squash teams. The number of club squash programs has also increased exponentially, as college squash continues to expand beyond private institutions in Northeast.
In a 2009 interview, Trinity head coach Paul Assaiante told ESPN, “When we lose – and we will – it won’t be because the bar dropped. It will be because [other teams] came up to the bar.” Today, Yale did just that, and Trinity leaves behind a legacy of great play.