No. 22 Men's Squash Hosts Pioneer Valley Invitational, Seeded Eighth for NESCACs
Issue   |   Wed, 02/03/2016 - 01:48

The Amherst men’s squash team had a busy interterm schedule, first playing two league matches and then hosting the Pioneer Valley Invitational.

After early-season victories over MIT and Western Ontario, Amherst entered a Jan. 12 fixture at Middlebury sporting a 2-0 record and a No. 22 national ranking. A 6-1, 18th ranked Middlebury team got the best of the purple and white, as Amherst senior captain Noah Browne earned the team’s lone victory in the No. 1 position, despite dropping his first game of the season (9-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-7). Middlebury swept the remaining courts, winning 8-1.

Just three days later, Amherst faced off against another NESCAC rival, welcoming No. 28 Hamilton to the Davenport courts. The team bounced back well from the disappointing result in Vermont, and got convincing wins from the top to the bottom of the line-up en route to a 7-2 triumph. Browne continued his dominant play on court No. 1 (11-2, 11-4, 11-7) and first-year David Merkel won 11-8, 11-8, 11-8 at the No. 3 position as Amherst and Hamilton traded victories on the top four courts. The purple and white then began to pull away as Darian Ehsani ’17 fought back after a second-game loss to win 11-7, 7-11, 11-4, 11-7 on court five. Michael Groot ’17, Lucas Sheiner ’19 and Jeremy Van ’17 swept their opponents on the sixth, seventh and eighth courts, respectively, with Sheiner’s win clinching the match for Amherst.

Over the next two days, the team saw four opponents when the purple and white hosted the Pioneer Valley Invitational. Amherst had a tough task ahead of them this past Saturday, as they went on to play No. 14 Navy and No. 20 Colby on the tournament’s first day.

Browne continued his brilliant season and extended his record to 6-0 in securing the purple and white’s single win (12-10, 11-9, 11-9) against a tough Navy line-up. After the 8-1 loss, Amherst fared much better in their match with Colby. In what was undoubtedly the team’s tightest match of the season, just two of nine individual matches finished in three games, with four needing a full five games to be decided. Unfortunately, Amherst ended the matchup on the losing end. Again Browne collected a 3-0 victory at the top of the lineup (11-6, 12-10, 11-5), and Ehsani and Van both outlasted their opponents and came out on top of 3-2 matches to give Amherst their second and third victories. It was not enough though, as Colby saw the match finish 6-3 overall in the favor of the Mules.

Sunday was kinder to the purple and white when Amherst cruised to an 8-1 win over No. 25 Dickinson. On the first court, Browne’s win set the tone for a dominating Amherst victory. Next up was a difficult matchup with 17th ranked Bates, who handed Amherst an 8-1 loss in their final action of the tournament. This time it was Groot who put Amherst on the board at the sixth position (11-3, 11-4, 11-0).

On Sunday, Jan. 31, the purple and white then faced two conference opponents at Williams. First, the squad faced Wesleyan. Browne and Cameron Bahadori ’18 claimed five-set victories in the No. 1 and 2 spots, but Wesleyan victories in third, fourth and fifth positions paced the Cardinals to a narrow 5-4 victory over Amherst.

The purple and white then lost in a tough match against Williams. Browne claimed a three-set victory in the first slot, but Williams swept the remaining positions to win 8-1.

Next up for the squad is the three-day NESCAC Championships from Friday, Feb. 5 to Sunday, Feb. 7. Seeded eighth in the tournament, Amherst will face ninth-seeded Tufts in the first round on Friday at 4:30 p.m.