National champions – or not? Unfortunately, that's one question that's now out of the men's squash team's control.
Last night the Tigers (11-1 overall, 5-1 Ivy) defeated top-ranked Trinity, 5-4, at Jadwin Gym. Princeton's victory places it in a three-way tie for first place with Harvard and Trinity. The regular-season national championship, however, will not be decided on the courts, but rather in a conference call between Intercollegiate Squash Association officials and coaches today.
Coming into last night's match with Trinity College, the Tigers realized the stakes that lay on the table. A victory by a score of 6-3 or better would ensure a regular-season championship, while either a 5-4 victory or a loss would leave the team's drive to national superiority in doubt.
Princeton, Harvard and Trinity each have just one loss on the season, all to one another. The Tigers' victory over the Bantams may compensate for their loss to Harvard earlier this season, while the Crimson's lone defeat came at the hands of Trinity – overall an extremely convoluted situation. A co-championship may even be declared.
After losing a tight match to the Bantams last year, the Tigers needed to call upon match toughness to emerge victorious. In preparation, team members had challenged one another over the previous two weeks in order to build on end-of-match concentration skills that they would need with Trinity.
Entering last night, the loss to Harvard Feb. 1 was the only blemish on Princeton's slate. But the Tigers looked to draw upon recent wins against Yale, to whom the team had lost in a preseason scrimmage, and Amherst in order to boost them to championship form.
"When you go into a match thinking that you can win, you have a much better chance of winning," sophomore No. 2 Peter Yik said.
Last night, senior No. 3 Ben Fishman started Princeton off with a solid 3-1 victory. Yik turned in a sweeping 3-0 victory, while junior No. 1 Amir Giv'eon struggled and dropped his match to Trinity's Marcus Cowie, 3-0.
Junior No. 7 Gardner Lamotte remained undefeated on the season (10-0), racking up another 3-0 victory. Also picking up wins for the Tigers were senior No. 6 Pierre Bastien and junior No. 9 Steve Lilley.
"This is the best team that we have had in my four years here. Everyone is playing very well," Fishman said.
Thoughts of the meeting with Trinity had guided the Tigers in their efforts against preseason fourth-ranked Amherst Saturday. After losing last year in the team championships, Princeton hoped to rebound against the Lord Jeffs and establish confidence for its match against Trinity.
"We knew that it would be tough," Yik said.
The solid play throughout the lineup spelled success for the Tigers against Amherst, lifting them to a 7-2 margin of victory.
Team members rallied behind one another Saturday to overcome any sort of intimidation they might have felt. Five-game wins from Giv'eon, Bastien and Lamotte swung the balance in Princeton's favor.
"Five-game wins are where you grab your victories," Yik said.
Senior No. 4 Ted Roosevelt played hard through the adversity of illness Saturday, taking his Amherst opponent to five games even without all his strength.
"I was happy to see Ted's effort out there," Yik added.
The Tigers will next compete in the 38-team ISA tournament this weekend at Jadwin. By that time, the national championship will have been decided and depending on the outcome, Princeton will either be playing for redemption or just try to add some icing on the cake.