Men’s Squash on Familiar Ground

 
   

It is early in the season and the Trinity men’s squash team is in its rightful place atop the intercollegiate squash world. After seven straight national championships and a winning streak that dates back to 1998, it would be easy to think that the Bantams are in a comfort zone. One might even assume, given the fact that this team has never lost a college match, that they’ve grown complacent and consider themselves inherently entitled to the lofty heights they have reached.

Talk to Head Coach Paul Assaiante for a few minutes, however, and it quickly becomes apparent that nothing could be further from the truth. “Our guys have a great attitude,” he says. “They respect the game and the players who came before them. They realize that they’re part of a legacy and it means a lot to them. It’s something special and they know it. They also know it can end. I don’t think any of us takes winning for granted.”

The Bantams will surely feel the loss of several key players who graduated in 2005, including four-year All-American and two-time national singles champion Bernardo Samper. This year’s team has 5 All-Americans among its 18 returning players. Junior Shaun Johnstone, a two-time All-American, is ranked fourth in the nation by the College Squash Association. Four other Bantams, senior tri-captain Yvain Badan, senior tri-captain Jacques Swanepoel, junior Eduardo Pereira, and junior Sahil Vora, are ranked in the top 15.

 
 

Men’s Squash Coach Paul Assaiante throws out the ceremonial first pitch before a 2003 Boston Red Sox game.
 

Assaiante is entering his twelfth season at Trinity and has so far accumulated a mind-boggling record of 183-10. The Bantams’ current streak is 130 straight wins—the longest winning streak in all of intercollegiate athletics. After suffering a stroke last June, the coach is not a hundred percent but says that he feels pretty good. He credits his players with aiding his return to health. “The boys have been my saving grace,” he says. “I’m excited every day to see my teams. They definitely helped me get through the tough times.” And as for the stroke, he says, “I really think it was a stroke of good luck. It brought me back to focusing on what’s important.” In addition to squash, Assaiante has also coached the men’s tennis team for 9 of the last 11 years, posting an impressive 98-39 record.      

Of course, there is a sense of obligation that goes with all the accolades. “There will come a day,” he says, “20 or 30 years from now, when I’m sitting on a porch somewhere and I’ll be able to look back and say, ‘that was pretty cool.’ But not now. The minute I take my eye off the target, I let these kids down and they need me to be as sharp as I can be every day. They deserve my best.”

Key matches this season include a match at Yale on January 25, Princeton at home on February 1, and Harvard at home on February 4. Both the men’s and women’s squash teams play their home matches at the state-of-the-art George A. Kellner ’64 Squash Center in the Ferris Athletic Center.

         

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