With the final game of his match tied up at 3-3, fourth seed Jerry Yang ’17 raised his racquet and smashed the ball into the back of the court out of his opponent’s reach to win the point. Yang fought his opponent for the advantage throughout his extremely long match, which lasted five games, and was eventually able to secure the win to capture a 4-3 victory for Andover over St. Paul’s School (from Brooklandville, MD) in the consolation bracket of the Division III U.S. High School Team Squash National Championship.
The team came into the tournament with a 3-10 record, and it was seeded 16th out of 16 teams. Andover’s first match at Nationals was against the Horace Mann School from Bronx, N.Y., on Friday. Andover lost by a margin of 6-1, with the team’s only win coming from seventh seed Alexander Schwartz ’19 who beat his opponent 3-1. The top of the ladder struggled to have the same success, and many lost in the minimum amount possible.
The team’s loss against Horace Mann sent it to the consolation bracket. On the same day, Andover matched up against St. Paul’s. The bottom of the team’s ladder fought hard, but were largely unable to secure wins for the team, with two of the matches ending in 3-2 game scores.
Despite these losses, the top four seeds of the ladder were able to achieve victories in their matches. First seed Alex Bernhard ’19 and second seed Captain Jack Quamme ’16 both won their matches 3-0. Third seed Ishaan Patel ’18 also won his match 3-1. Eventually, the matchup between Andover and St. Paul’s was tied up at three games apiece with only fourth seed Yang left to play. In a hard fought match, Yang was able to win in the fifth game.
Yang said, “St Paul’s was a very close match. It came down to 11-9 in the fifth set of the seventh game. There were some disappointments in that match: David had an injured back, [Schwartz’s] opponent came back from 0-2, but we were still able to pull out the win.”
The team then played the Friends Academy from Locust Valley, N.Y., on Saturday. The team lost by a margin of 5-2 with its only wins coming from sixth seed Eric Wu ’18, who won 3-0, and seventh seed Schwartz, who won 3-2.
In its last match of Nationals, Andover played Blair Academy from Blairstown, N.J. The team lost 5-2 again with its two wins coming from first seed Bernhard and third seed Patel, both of whom won in four games.
Patel said, “We finished 12th overall out of 16 teams in Division III. This was a victory for us as we had been ranked in the bottom three of our division.”
While the team was able to place higher than expected, it needs to continue to work hard for the rest of the season. “While we are happy with this result, we believe we could have done better. We need to view this as a learning opportunity and try and improve our squash for the rest of the season and to prepare for Interschols,” Patel continued.
Yang said, “We were seeded at the bottom of the division so in that sense we played better than expectations. But I think we know that we have a lot to improve upon. The good thing is we have a very young team and are only graduating one player, so I’m really excited to see how people train in the offseason to come back stronger.”
The Wednesday following Nationals, the team travelled to play Concord, whom Andover defeated by a margin of 6-1, improving its record to 4-10. All of Andover’s winners swept their matches 3-0 in games.
The team rested two of its top seven in the match, allowing room for others to step up and seize the opportunity.
Quamme said, “We’ve always beaten Concord, so today we didn’t play two of our top seven and gave them a chance to rest. Bernhard and David Tsai ’18 rested because they’ve had some nagging health issues, and so the whole team kind of stepped up in their absence.”
Looking ahead, the team anticipates its matchup against Phillips Exeter Academy, in which it will field its complete roster. Without top seeded Bernhard, Andover has not captured a victory in its league, the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (Nepsac) Class-A.
Bernhard said, “We are incredibly excited for the rest of the season and look forward to a strong ending to a fun season. We can’t wait to take on Exeter with a healthy team next Wednesday.”