Reigning National Champion Men's Squash Opens Title Defense In Home Pair
All of this weekend's home squash matches will be streamed live on GoPrincetonTigers.TV. Because we are utilizing new technology, with hopes that it will make all matches available, this weekend's matches only will not require a subscription.
Perhaps you remember the last time the Princeton men's squash team played a home match. If not, let's refresh your memory.
The date was February 19, 2012, and Princeton was trailing 4-2 in the final shift of the CSA national championship match. Trinity, the reigning 13-time title holder, carried a 1-0 lead on one court and had two of its best waiting on the others.
Over the next hour, the Tigers put together one of the most magical stretches in program history, if not Princeton athletic history. One final drop shot by Kelly Shannon '12 sent both his teammates into Court 3 for a championship celebration, as well as a capacity crowd into a frenzy.
For the first time in two decades, Princeton now comes into a season as both the reigning national champion and the top-ranked program, but it knows that there are plenty of obstacles looming. Besides a loaded Ivy League, which includes former No. 1 Yale, Ivy scrimmage champion Harvard and 2012 team semifinalist Cornell, Rochester remains a rising program and opening opponent Franklin & Marshall continues to improve.
And then there is Trinity, which always reloads for a run at the title.
But Princeton feels good about its own squad, despite several key losses to graduation last spring. There is serious strength at the top of the lineup, but head coach Bob Callahan also feels good about the potential depth. There will be new faces in the lineup, and they may need some time to adjust, but you can expect Princeton to be ready to defend its title during the final weekend of February in New Haven, Conn.
Senior co-captains Todd Harrity and Steve Harrington will lead the charge for Princeton this season. Harrity will leave the program as one of its greatest players ever, but he has every intention of enhancing his résumé this season. And that won't be easy.
Harrity is a three-time All-America, a two-time individual finalist and the 2011 national individual champion. While a pair of newcomers to the league picked up wins over Harrity last season, he answered the call when Princeton needed it most. He was one of two Princeton players to go unbeaten in the team championships, and his 3-0 win over Trinity evened the team final at 4-4 and allowed for Shannon's clinching win.
Harrity will also be plenty motivated to return to the individual final, and he has a pair of Ivy League opponents to use as motivation. Harvard junior Ali Farag is the reigning national champion, while Columbia sophomore Ramit Tendon knocked Harrity out in the semifinal. The Princeton senior will push himself hard to move past that duo and become the program's eighth multiple-time individual champion.
Harrington may not be challenging for individual titles, but his performance last season was as crucial as any in Princeton's Ivy and national championship season. He won 12 matches playing mostly in the eighth spot, and his hard-fought win in the team semifinal helped Princeton avoid a Cornell upset. Harrington is a two-sport champion, having been a key part of the 2011 Ivy League baseball title, and his competitive drive will serve as tremendous leadership for a youthful roster.
Leading the junior class is Dylan Ward, who posted Princeton's best win percentage in the varsity lineup last season, and who led the national championship-clinching rally against Trinity in the CSA final. It was Ward who trailed 1-0 with Princeton down 4-2, but he fought back for the 3-1 victory that ignited the championship push. Ward went 15-1 during the team season, and his length and power make him a challenging opponent for anybody in the middle of the lineup.
Ash Egan may not have gained Ward's experience, but he had as big a regular season victory as anybody last season. Egan trailed 1-0 at Harvard before rallying for a 3-1 victory; that match helped Princeton to a 5-4 team victory and provided the edge for the Tigers' Ivy League title win. Egan went 6-5 during the season, and will likely be called upon for a greater role in the lineup.
A crucial duo in Princeton's 2011-12 championship season was the freshman pairing of Tyler Osborne and Samuel Kang, and Callahan is excited to see what they can do with a year of experience under their belts. Osborne earned All-Ivy League and second-team All-America honors after going 14-2 during his freshman season. He didn't lose an Ivy League match during the regular season, but he saved his best for last. In the team final against Trinity's Miled Zarazua, who owned an 8-1 record over Osborne, the Princeton freshman thrilled the home crowd with a tough 3-0 win. He is a gutsy competitor with a skill set that can match up with almost anybody.
Osborne ended the season ranked 15th nationally. A few spots below him was Kang, his classmate and a recipient of All-America Honorable Mention. Kang went 12-2 during his freshman season, and he outlasted Cornell's William Hartigan for a 3-2 in the national team semifinal. Like Egan, he also had a critical win at Harvard (3-2 over Nigel Koh), and Kang's relentless play on the court will serve him well as he likely moves into a top-three position.
That is six players with varying levels of varsity experience, but Callahan will need to send three more to the court if he plans on defending his Ivy and national titles. One likely option is sophomore Taylor Tutrone, who went 7-2 last season and has made a huge jump in the offseason. Callahan believes he could be a force in the middle of the lineup and have the type of impact that Ward and Harrington had last season.
Sophomore David Hoffman was Tutrone's teammate at the Gilman School, and he could share a spot in the varsity lineup with him again this season. Hoffman won eight of nine last season, including three at the No. 9 position, and will be vying for a consistent spot at the bottom of the ladder this season.
Senior Chris Greco and sophomore Jacob Lee will also contend for those spots, as will a quartet of freshmen. The performances of Osborne and Kang last season proved just how important a new class can be in a championship season, and it's likely that this talented group will need one or two players to have a similar impact this season.
The most likely contender for a varsity spot is Vivek Dinodia, who reached the No. 2 ranking in India for U-15s, and he reached Top 4 in both U-17 and U-19. Sam Ezratty earned his best ranking of No. 2 at the U-17 level during his junior year at the Hackley School, while Michael LeBlanc reached a No. 10 national ranking at the U-19 level. Nick Barton competed for the Bermuda Junior National Team.
With the improved depth in the sport, the Princeton schedule should be as challenging as ever. Saturday's season-opening opponent, Franklin & Marshall, is ranked seventh in the preseason poll and is one of the most improved teams in the nation.
Starting in December, the Tigers will host Top 5 programs every month; Rochester comes in Dec. 8, Harvard visits Jan. 13 and Trinity returns for a championship rematch Feb. 16.