What’s the most dominating team in sports today? I’ll give you a couple of hints. It doesn’t have a $180 million payroll. It doesn’t play in a major media market and the athletes don’t even get paid.
Stumped? I don’t blame you. But while the sports world is constantly singing the praises of supposed powerhouses in the major sports, the Trinity men’s squash team has quietly run up a string on 108 consecutive victories—the last of which came in a stirring 5-4 victory over Harvard at last weekend’s CSA Team Championships.
Let that sink in for a second.
The last time the Bantams lost a match androstenedione—not steroids—was the hot topic in baseball, and interns—not intelligence—were the hot topic in Washington. So while the real world has gone through drastic changes, the world of college squash has stayed remarkably consistent.
The Bantams have not lost a match in over six years—the 1998 Championships to be exact—and have very rarely even been tested. Before this past weekend, Trinity hadn’t dropped four games in a match since the 2000 Championships, when it beat the Crimson 5-4.
“They came out with a really dominant team 108 wins ago,” said co-captain Ziggy Whitman, who has been part of two Harvard teams that have lost to the Bantams in the finals. “They’ve kept it up and they’re the champs. It’s always tough to dethrone the champs.”
For Whitman and the rest of collegiate squash, the Bantams domination has left mixed emotions. While Trinity has made life on the court hell for everyone else, its excellence has raised the bar and helped the sport grow.
“They’ve really legitimized the sport of squash. It used to be a bunch of prep school kids from Philly, New York, or Greenwich,” said Whitman, who hails from Philadelphia. “They’ve made it into a real Division I sport.”
What makes the Bantams’ run more remarkable is that their climb to the top of the squash world came from out of nowhere. Historically, squash was a sport played most competitively within the Ivy League, with Harvard accumulating 25 national titles since 1956.
But former Trinity President Evan Dobelle changed all that. Dobelle, a squash enthusiast, hired current coach Paul Assaiante and ordered him to field a team competitive with those of Ivy League schools.
“Dobelle gave Assaiante the go ahead to go out and actively recruit,” said Bantams co-captain Pat Malloy, who finished his collegiate career last weekend without ever experiencing a team loss. “[Assaiante] took that and recruited the best players and we’ve seen what’s happened since.”
Realizing that he wasn’t likely to pry the top domestic squash players away from Princeton, Harvard and Yale, Assaiante looked to Europe and Asia to build his dynasty.
The strategy worked, and within four years of Assaiante taking the reigns, the Bantams won their first national title.
Six years later, the battle to knock Trinity off its perch is not getting any easier. While the Crimson must try and woo new recruits with history and tradition, the Bantams have taken advantage of opportunities not available to their Ivy League competitors.
As the only Division I sport at Trinity, squash receives the attention as the school’s premier sport, and while Ivy schools are prohibited from providing athletic scholarships, the Bantams men’s team alone has four scholarship positions.