Following a strong season of consistent performances at home and on the road, the men’s squash team headed to the Hoehn Cup national tournament at Princeton this past weekend seeded 12th overall in the national rankings and fourth in their division. As a relatively young program on the college squash scene, the success of the program in recent years has brought a lot of attention and great players to St. Lawrence.
Because of their ranking headed into the tournament, SLU was scheduled to battle 13th ranked Middlebury on Friday in a rematch of the previous weekend’s match up, in which the Saints bested the Panthers 6-3. While Middlebury got four early victories towards the top of the ladder, clutch performances at the bottom of the Saints line-up secured wins at spots six through nine, tying the match at 4-4. Sophomore Will Campo, first-years Sebastian Riedelsheimer and Duncan Maxwell, and senior captain Michael Badali beat their opponents and made up for the tough losses at the top of the order.
The match came down to a very close game five for first-year Chris Fernandez playing at the four spot, who rallied from two games behind to beat his opponent 11-9 with an impressive five point sweep that secured the win for the Saints. Asked about what was going through his head during the miracle match, Fernandez offers, “It was a great atmosphere with the whole team cheering me on and supporting me. Their support and the motivation both coaches gave me early on when I was down by two games is what kept me from giving up.” Of the final minutes of the emotional victory he admits, “My heart was pounding and I was sweating a lot. I couldn’t believe it when the match ended and the entire team stormed on to the court to celebrate; I was legitimately in awe and it was such a sick feeling.”
With the victory over Middlebury the team advanced to the semifinals of the Hoehn Cup for the first time in program history and also secured at least a top-twelve finish for the season. Pitted against 9th ranked Penn for their match on Saturday, the team put up an outstanding fight in nine close matches, only to come up one game short, losing 4-5 to the Quakers. Following the loss to Penn, the team moved on to play 11th ranked Williams on Sunday for third place in the Hoehn Cup. The Saints beat Williams 5-4 with wins at the two, three, six, eight, and nine spots. Impressive 3-0 sweeps by Will Campo and Duncan Maxwell, at the six and eight spots respectively, improved their identical team-leading individual season records to 13-3.
Of the match and the end of the season, senior captain Michael Badali commented, “It was awesome to make it to semis, despite the tough loss. We literally came within two points of beating Penn and winning the division, which would have been sweet. Of course that was frustrating, but it is still awesome that we beat Williams (for the first time in program history) and are now 11th in the nation.”
Assistant Coach Chris Sachvie credits the winning season to a combination of “hard work and dedication from the team, the talent and good work ethic the freshman brought to team, and high team cohesion which can be attributed to good leadership by the upper classmen.” As for next year, he adds, “We are expecting a lot more out of our players this off season with an emphasis on getting stronger,” and further warns students to, “Look out for Saints Squash throwing iron around in the gym in the upcoming months. It was a great year as coaches to work with this group and we’re excited to keep moving forward and crack the top ten next year.”