Playing Columbia for the second time in two weeks and the third time this season, Wesleyan posted an exciting 6-3 win in the first round of the Summers ("C") Division of the College Squash Association (CSA) Championship being hosted by Harvard Fri.-Sun., Feb. 25-27. With the win, the fifth-seeded Cardinals took on top-seeded George Washington Sat., Feb. 26 in a match at the Belmont Hill School. GWU narrowly averted an upset against #8 Hamilton with a tight 5-4 triumph in ts first-round matchup. GWU had defeated Wesleyan back on Dec. 4, 7-2, but this time escaped by the skin of its teeth with a 5-4 decison. That put Wesleyan in the match for third place vs. Amherst Sun., Feb. 27 at Northeastern with Amherst coming out ahead, 7-2.
Before Nationals, Wesleyan and Columbia had split 5-4 decisions against each other this season with the Cardinal conquest coming Feb. 12 at Vassar during the Vassar Team Challenge. Columbia's win came at Smith Jan. 16 in the Pioneer Valley Invitational.
At Nationals, the Cardinals had three dramatic 3-2 triumphs over the Lions to secure the team victory. At #1, John Steele '14 (main photo) recovered from a 2-1 deficit to win in five games. At #5, Jeff Berman '14 also wore down his opponent in five games after falling behind, 2-1. Most exciting was the win by Shivan Bhavnani '13 at #9. Up 2-0 in his match, Bhavnani fell in an extended third game, 16-14, before dropping an 11-2 decision in the fourth game. Despite the lopsided fourth-game loss, Bhavnani came out with resolve and captured a 12-10 game for the match.
Rolling to 3-0 wins for Wesleyan were #6 Zander Nassikas '14 (photo insert lower right) and #8 Lucas Wherry '13 (photo insert upper right). The Cardinals' lone 3-1 win came from #4 Alex Nunez '14.
Wesleyan clinched its first winning mark since going 11-6 in 2000-01, a span of 10 seasons, with its 14-10 record following the Columbia win and finished 20th nationally after ranking 27th a year ago. With its 14-12 final record, the squad established a school record for seasonal wins as 13 had been the previous high, accomplished in both 1979-80 (13-9) and 1998-99 (13-7).
Against George Washington, the outcome came down to the wire. The Cardinals were solid through the middle of the lineup, winning at #3 through #6 behind Dale Kobrin '11, Nunez, Berman and Nassikas, respectively, but faltering at the top and bottom.
In the finale vs. Amherst, Steele raced to a 3-0 win, improving his team-leading record to 19-6 this season. Also victorious was Matt Candal '11 at #2, taking a five-game match to close out the year at 15-9. Despite their losses to the Lord Jeffs, Nassikas and Nunez ranked second and third, respectively, with their seasonal marks of 17-9 and 16-10, meaning freshmen had the top three performances this year. Joining Candal with 15 wins was Berman.
The last action of the year comes up Fri.-Sun., March 4-6 at Dartmouth where a small contingent of Cardinals will participate on the CSA Individual Championships.