By Head Coach- John Wilson
In a happy finale to a mostly-up-but-occasionally-down 2013-2014 season, Bryant Squash claimed the Hawthorne Cup at the College Squash Association's National Championships, held at Harvard's Murr Athletic Center on February 14-15-16, with a 9-0 victory over the Golden Bears from the University of California, Berkeley. In a first-round match, Bryant, entering the championships with a ranking of 56, had upset the 49th-ranked Fordham Rams, who were seeded first in the Hawthorne Division, by a score of 5-4. In the division semifinals, Bryant had defeated the University of Southern California Trojans 7-2.
The Friday-afternoon match against Fordham, played on the courts at Belmont Hills, was a thrilling nail-biter that found Bryant losing an early 2-1 lead, behind victories by No. 3 Chase Ruben and No. 6 Umur Serin, to go down 3-4 with team captain Harry Waterton, playing No. 1, and Dmytro Bashchynskyy, playing No. 4, about to take the court. Waterton soon delivered a convincing 3-1 win, so with the score now tied at 4-all, complete attention shifted to the drama unfolding between the two No. 4s. All players and fans squeezed together behind the glass-backed court, and the cheering and rooting grew to a roar, each cohort trying to outshout the other. Bashchynskyy, called Dyma by all the Bulldogs, won game 1, lost game 2, won game 3, and lost a very close game 4. Dyma likes to figure things out for himself, and he's become very good at it over his years of Bulldog squash, so it was no surprise that when his coach leaned in to offer a word or two of encouragement to the player on his way back onto the court for game 5, Dyma gently showed the palm of his hand and said, "I've got this, coach." His coach hoped that the player was right.
He was. Dyma jumped to a quick 5-0 lead that was never bested and cruised to an 11-7 win, all the while displaying a poker face of businesslike focus that stood in marked contrast to his opponent's pale mask of anxiety and dismay. Bryant had defeated the No. 1 seed and now had a clear shot into the finals.
Saturday's match against USC was less eventful, with Bryant taking a 2-1 lead after the first three matches and leading 4-2 after the second round of three. Akshay Poonia, playing at No. 7, delivered the team victory with his 3-0 win.
In Sunday's final, Bryant jumped to a 3-0 lead out of the gate and never looked back, cruising to the sweep and claiming the Hawthorne Cup. The competitive highlight of the day was undoubtedly Phil Carr's marathon 5-game victory at the No. 5 spot. Phil has stepped up his game another notch this year, just as he did last season, but he remains a slow starter, and his Cal match followed a familiar pattern, with Phil's opponent taking a quick 1-0 lead. But as Phil has done several times this season, he settled in, found a groove, and battled back to 2-all. The players were very evenly matched, guiding their opposites to every corner of the court and avoiding errors in order to prolong each point. In short, it was boiling down to a grueling test of fitness, resilience, and resolve--a test for which the Bulldogs' Carr was well prepared. At 7-all in game 5, Carr won another tortuous back-and-forth point to take an 8-7 lead. Suddenly, his opponent, driven beyond a certain physical limit, dropped to his hands and knees in the back right corner and threw up on the court. Such fouling of the court, as the rules of squash make clear, renders the court unplayable, and the offending party is forced to default the game while the court is cleaned. Since it was the fifth game, Carr thus won the match 3-2. The match proved a graphic lesson that nicks and winners aren't the only way to win a squash match; running the legs off a courageous opponent works just as well.
Along with the Hawthorne Cup, Bryant's weekend victories also earned the club an end-of-season national ranking of 49. But the jubilation at winning much coveted national hardware securing such a solid ranking was tempered by the realization that Bryant Squash Club president Nick Brewer, Bashchynskyy, and Poonia, all seniors, had just played their final points for Bulldog Squash. It has been a successful four-year run for these three, and we all will miss them, both on and off the courts.