Men's Squash: Tigers gear up for highly-anticipated Trinity rematch
“Facing Trinity is the highlight of our regular season,” Princeton head coach Bob Callahan said. “It was tough to face them on the road before the postseason last year, so playing them at home this time is very exciting for us.”
The Tigers are 10-1 in regular season play, with their lone loss coming in a close 5-4 decision against Cornell last Friday. That match emphasized the importance of working hard in close matches for Callahan and his players as they head into the weekend.
“It’s going to be a very close match,” said senior Todd Harrity, who plays at the Tigers’ No. 1 position. “Our loss to Cornell will make us focus a little harder and keep us on our toes for Saturday.”
“Ultimately, there are five schools that stand out right now: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell and Trinity,” Callahan said. “We were very fortunate to beat Harvard and Yale, but our loss against Cornell simply boiled down to a few points that went their way instead of ours. Those lucky points are crucial in squash, and they’ll be just as important when we play on Saturday.”
Despite last year’s loss, Trinity’s men are playing with dominant force, as they remain undefeated in regular season play. The No. 4 Tigers are aware of the No. 1 Bantams’ 15-match winning streak this season, but they have confidence that they can pull off the victory in front of the home crowd.
“We are playing well and feeling confident going in,” Harrity said. “We all know it’s going to be very close, but we aren’t putting ourselves under any pressure that we’re expected to win.”
“It’s all about confidence,” said sophomore Samuel Kang, who plays at the Tigers’ No. 2 position. “We need to trust in the work we’ve done this season, and know that it will pay off on the court. Personally, I know that I will need to believe in my game as a whole, which includes both my fitness level and my strokes.”
While the stage is set similarly to how it was last year, roles have changed due to graduating seniors and incoming freshmen, especially for the Tigers. The loss of four outstanding seniors — Clay Blackiston, Chris Callis, David Pena and Kelly Shannon — created a void in the team’s lineup that Princeton has worked hard to fill throughout this season. The importance of the younger players is quite apparent: Freshmen and sophomores currently hold six of the nine starting positions for the Tigers.
Despite the young talent on the team, the Tigers realize that experience is the best teacher. That is why preparation for this match has been just as much a mental task as a physical one, especially for freshmen Vivek Dinodia and Michael LeBlanc, who as of late have filled out the eighth and ninth spots in Princeton’s order.
“I’ve just been trying to help the freshmen envision the pressure and crowd,” said Kang. “As a freshman, the huge atmosphere overwhelmed me. It’s very different than playing individually. The older guys have just been talking to the freshmen and have stressed the importance of staying calm so they can play their game. I saw the benefit of this advice last year, when I had upperclassmen that helped me stay relaxed before big matches.”
“The freshmen on our roster have all seen and heard about the rich squash rivalry between Princeton and Trinity,” Callahan said. “As they prepare to become a part of this legacy, I just want them to stay calm so they can perform at their best and just enjoy the chance to play. That’s what it’s all about.”
But for some members of the Princeton lineup, this match will be not the first but the last. Senior co-captains Todd Harrity and Steve Harrington will bid farewell to the Jadwin courts, as Saturday marks the final home match of their collegiate careers.
“Todd and Steve are such outstanding guys and have been great leaders for the team this season,” Callahan said. “My only wish for them on Saturday is that they go out, play their best and find satisfaction in their final performance at Princeton.”
Princeton and Trinity face off Saturday afternoon at the Jadwin Squash Courts. Match play begins at 2 p.m.
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