Men’s Squash Battles to Sixth Place Finish at NESCAC Championships
Issue   |   Tue, 02/06/2018 - 22:10
Photo courtesy of Amherst Athletics
David Merkel ’19 won two matches at the NESCAC Championship.

Entering the NESCAC Championships, the Amherst men’s squash team knew it faced an uphill battle to contend for the conference title. However, despite this reality, Amherst had managed to secure the fifth-overall seed with wins in three of its four matches leading up to the tournament and was looking to make it to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.

Playing on the Hamilton campus, the Mammoths first faced off against the fourth-seeded Middlebury Panthers in the quarterfinals. In the two teams’ previous meeting, Middlebury had emerged victorious, sweeping the Mammoths 9-0.

Despite the added motivation of postseason competition, Amherst was unable to mount a significant challenge to Middlebury this time, losing 8-1. However, despite the score line, Amherst was competitive on many of the courts.

Amherst’s lone victory in the match came on the fifth court, where Reggie Brewster ’21 defeated his opponent in four games, 11-7, 11-3, 9-11, 13-11.

Dropped into the consolation bracket and out of the title race, Amherst turned its sight to finishing the tournament on a high note. Facing the eighth-seeded Bowdoin, the Mammoths advanced in convincing fashion, besting the Polar Bears 7-2. Winning in each of the top four spots and the three bottom spots, Amherst displayed solid depth throughout the lineup.

Standing out in this defeat of Bowdoin were the play of David Merkel ’19 and the team’s overall resiliency in the face of early setbacks. Merkel was the only member of either team who defeated his opponent in straight game. Terrence Wang ’21, Chris Zimmerman ’20, Mateen Mills ’20 and Arnav Parikh ’21 all went down one game early to their respective opponents, but then each fought back to win the match in four games.

Amherst then moved on to face Colby in a match to decide who would finish fifth and sixth at the tournament. In what proved to be a tightly-contested match, Colby edged Amherst 5-4, handing Amherst its second consecutive sixth-place finish at the NESCAC Championships.

Wang was again dominant at the top of the Amherst lineup, winning his match in straight games. Merkel won his second consecutive match in straight games, while Mills also notched a second consecutive victory.

The most impressive performance, however, was that of Harith Khawaja ’19, who gutted out a five-game victory on the third court in a match that saw him come back from a 1-2 defecit to clinch the victory.

In other tournament action, Trinity recorded its 12th consecutive NESCAC title, while Bates finished second for the third year in a row. Trinity is also the defending CSA national champion and is the top ranked team in the nation, having recorded 24 straight victories dating back to last season.

Overall, the Mammoths now boast a record of 8-9 and a national ranking of No. 23. The Mammoths will return to action in several weeks at the CSA Men’s Team Championship.