the Trinity team in all its high-energy glory—2/27/11

The team just keeps on breaking records, in squash and for any collegiate sport. But when I watched three days of great play this past weekend at Harvard’s courts, there was no assurance that Trinity would be victorious. The crowd on Sunday at the finals with #2-ranked Yale was so large that people were sitting on the floors everywhere, standing on garbage cans, and shouting so loudly that at one point in the last match, a point was replayed when the Yale player complained he couldn’t hear himself think. This was not like the unearthly quiet of championship professional tennis. The two boys in front of me seemed totally drunk as they yelled nasty words toward one pony-tailed referee.

Amusingly and surprisingly, there were students from Harvard who came at my invitation and then rooted against my Trinity favorites. They wanted to be on hand at this historical contest if Yale should upset the reigning champs, as they hoped. After the match, one of them said he had switched sides and was for Trinity.

There are three rounds of competition in these games played on three different courts simultaneously: the first round is played by the team members ranked 3, 6 and 9; then 2, 5 and 8; then 1, 4, and 7. Trinity was behind after the first round 1-2, and after the second round 2-4, when the Trinity #5 lost in the fifth game by a score of 9-11. That was such a close match. Then Trinity won the 1st string and the 7th string, tying the team scores to 4-4. So the entire tournament would be decided by the last match of the 4th string.

While I was exhilarated when Trinity won some of the points and games in the earlier matches, and jumped out of my seat and waved my hands and fists in the air, I was totally tense and numb and shut down emotionally during the 9th match. I was too scared with the possibility of defeat, even though many around me were either for Yale or against Trinity winning yet another national title. If I weren’t such a fan, I would probably cheer for the underdog as well. But I know the guys and admire the team way too much to feel any guilt about one more victory.

Chris Binnie seconds after his historic win for Trinity

During the second round, I spoke with Chris Binnie, Trinity’s #4, and he seemed nervous as he realized how close the overall contest was and that a lot might depend on his match coming up. I told him to take deep breaths, my usual advice for relieving tension that does very little for me when I am facing powerful tennis shots.

But Chris functions under pressure far better than I do. He won the first game 11-9, then the second game 11-9. Those are nonexistent margins. Then he lost the third game 9-11. So close. But he took the fourth and final game 11-7 for his match and the whole tournament for his team.

Coincidentally the last shot by Yale was hit out of the court and into the crowd…right at my feet. I recovered this historic ball, still warm from the pounding it took and relished this prize memory I could savor forever. When I saw Chris’s smile after he had settled down 15 minutes later, I gave it to him with no hesitation.

On February 18th, the NY Times had an article about how Trinity dominates squash. It is very balanced and even describes what the Trinity coach is going to tell his team when they finally do lose a match…which all agree is inevitable.