NCAA squash already has its story of the year: Yale beat Trinity.
The Bantams had crushed the Bulldogs’ championship dreams in both 2010 and 2011 for their 12th and 13th consecutive national titles, respectively. But more impressively, Trinity had won 252 straight matches — the longest winning streak of any college team in any sport.
For the first time in 14 years, Trinity has a number other than zero in the loss column.
It’s not a feeling the Bantams are used to.
“I always said that I would be relieved when this streak was over,” Trinity coach Paul Assaiante told the media after the loss. “But I guess I was lying because I don’t like this feeling at all.”
Sunday in Hartford, Conn., the Penn men’s squash team will have its shot at tagging the Bantams with another ‘L.’
And for the first time in over a decade, Trinity (9-1) looks a little vulnerable.
“They’re not unbeatable,” said sophomore John Dudzik, Penn’s No. 5.
The Quakers will have one advantage on their side: Trinity has to play two tough matches against Rochester and Dartmouth in the two days leading up to its clash with Penn.
“They have [two] very hard matches before we play them,” Dudzik said. “They’re a great team, but it’s definitely not impossible for us to [win some matches].”
While the saying may go ‘any given Sunday,’ the odds of the Red and the Blue actually pulling off an upset are more than a typical long shot.
Trinity’s first loss since the Clinton administration didn’t come out of the blue. Yale came close against Trinity in the last two championship contests, falling, 6-3 and 5-4, in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
But that being said, there is a large chasm between soon-to-be No. 1 Yale and Penn: the last two times the Ivy League rivals met, the Bulldogs swept the Quakers, 9-0.
Moreover, Trinity has decisively beat teams like Harvard, which swept Penn earlier this month.
It was always conceivable that Yale could avenge a narrow 5-4 loss against this year’s weaker Bantams squad. But if Penn managed a win in Hartford, it would send the college squash world into a frenzy.
Some, including Penn captain Thomas Mattsson, still believe Trinity is the best team. After all, it was the Bulldogs squeaking by the Bantams this time, 5-4, on the home courts.
“It’s probably a long shot that we’ll be able to win five matches against them,” Dudzik commented. “But we should not go into the match thinking we’ll lose.”
But as Dudzik is also quick to note, there is “no pressure” on Penn.
A loss to Trinity would not compromise Penn’s No. 9 ranking. And after last week’s 5-4 losses to both No. 8 Franklin & Marshall and No. 7 Dartmouth, Penn has readjusted its goals for the season.
“Our goal was to get into the top 8 this year, and that could’ve been done by beating either [of those teams],” Dudzik said.
“Playing a better opponent [is] obviously tough, but at the same time, you play up to their level,” Dudzik commented.
The Red and Blue will also play better when they’re relaxed, when there’s no pressure and when they can let loose on their shots.
If you’re a Quakers fan, don’t expect a win Sunday, but as Mattsson reminded his team, “there’s always a chance.”