The boys’ first trip of the season to Mercersburg Academy ended up with a 9-0 win over MICDS, 7-2 over Canisius, 8-1 over Mercersburg, and a trophy in Coach Byrd’s hand. Personally, playing #1, this tournament posed a challenge, losing 2/3 of our team’s losses.
After handily winning the Mercersburg team tournament, the boys were poised for Nationals some two weeks later. As repetitive as they were, we knew the daily practices of boast and drive, rotating rails, ghosting, and court sprints were exactly what we needed to succeed at Nationals. Before we knew it, the preliminary seeding came out, and most of the boys were hoping for a Divison III, even a Division IV placement in order to capture the second national title in the programs history.
Eventually, we were placed as a top seed in Division III, and we all knew that bringing another national title to the South could be a reality. Flash forward two weeks. The entire team, boys and girls, are sitting in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport awaiting our flight to Hartford, Connecticut. Our first flight had just been cancelled due to the ongoing snow storm in Connecticut, and our rebooked flight was significantly delayed. We looked at each other, and knew that this did not look like it was going to end well.
After our second flight had been cancelled, the coaches walked off determining whether or not to proceed with the trip. I could see the vacillating conversation, and what the team wanted more than anything was to compete at Nationals. We could not have our chance at a national title taken away. About an hour later, they returned, with new boarding passes in hand for a flight the next morning.
US Squash, acknowledging the weather, had postponed start times in order to accommodate traveling: we would still be going to nationals. As the number two seed we expected the first round to be smooth, only dropping 3 games total, with a 6-1 victory.
In the quarterfinals we faced tougher opposition, Episcopal High School in Virginia, but managed that match with a 5-2 victory. The semifinals proved to be a little more difficult. In one of the tightest matches of the season, we squeezed by 4-3. In probably the second greatest match at nationals I have ever witnessed (after Will Grady’s 10-6 comeback in the fifth), Tommy Rankin exhibited extreme determination and won 11-9 in the fifth after losing the fourth 11-0 pushing our team towards the finals.
Next, we would be facing the Masters School, and I knew from the moment draws were posted that they would be our toughest competition. With 3 Egyptians and a top ranked junior player comprising their top 4 positions, we would all have to play our best squash to earn a victory. We readily handled their bottom three positions, but after Tommy had lost a close 3-1 match, and Douglas had lost to a freshman girl, we knew the result would be in the hands of the number 1 and 4 matches. Dickson and I would be facing two Egyptians. We both fought hard, as we yearned to achieve a national title, but ultimately, we fell short.
Although we may have lost in the finals, we made history in the program with the highest overall placing at Nationals, and we will continue to work even harder for the next season in hopes of bringing another national championship back to the South.