After a 7-0 sweep against Phillips Exeter Academy in its first match of the 2019 Head U.S. High School National Championships, Andover Boys Squash went on to defeat HLM and Hopkins 6-1 and 5-2 respectively. The team later fell to the Pingry School 3-4, finishing second place out of 16 teams in Division II, seven spots higher than the team’s ninth place finish last year.
Leading up to the tournament the team worked to improve its technique and mental toughness during practice, according to Erik Wang ’21.
Wang said, “We focused a lot on consistency, hitting good length, and hitting tight rails without shooting too much and going for short shots without purpose. We also worked on our mental strength, keeping our head in the game, even if we were losing. I think we felt more prepared practicing that and executed that pretty well at Nationals.”
According to Siddhant Sinha ’21 and Head Coach John Roberts, the team’s strengths of depth and discipline on court were defining factors in its success.
Sinha said, “I think our depth is very good, so we win a lot of our tough matches at the bottom of the ladder. That helps us because if some teams have very good top players, we’re able to make up for it with our strong players on the bottom.”
Roberts said, “The main strength of the team was its mental toughness and determination. None of the four matches were by any means straight forward and in a tournament like this where nerves can play a factor, it really becomes about discipline on the court and being patient. All the boys did an excellent job of this.”
A highlight of the tournament was Andover’s close semi-final match against Hopkins, where the team’s determination helped it secure a victory, according to Captain Alex Bernhard ’19 and Joe Kacergis ’19.
“We had a really tough match in the semis that I thought everyone performed really well on. I think every one of the seven matches was winnable but also losable, but people really did well even though there was some pressure,” said Bernhard.
Kacergis said, “Our semi-finals against Hopkins was a lot of fun. That was one where even though it was a 5-2 win, all the matches were close, and everyone played very well. It was fun to watch and play, and winning a very close match like that was exciting for everyone.”
Kacergis commended fourth seed Arthur Nguyen ’22 on his consistently strong performances throughout the weekend. According to Nguyen, Kacergis also stood out, saving multiple match points to beat his Hopkins opponent in five sets.
Kacergis said, “Arthur Nguyen played very well, he is the [Junior] on the team, and he’s playing four right now. Throughout the entire weekend he stayed very calm and consistent. Especially because he played as [fourth seed], and the way Nationals works is that [the fourth seed] is the last match to play. He typically had the entire crowd watching him every time, yet he remained very calm and played very well, despite having all the pressure on him.”
Nguyen said, “For me, Joe Kacergis stood out this weekend. He gave maximum effort and hanged in there when he was faced with high pressure situations. Especially in the match against Hopkins, Joe’s opponent had several match points in the fifth set, but he persisted and won.”
Overall, the team is proud of its effort, and looks forward for the rest of the season, according to Roberts.
Roberts said, “I couldn’t have been prouder of the team. They carried themselves extremely well on and off the court which isn’t always easy to do in pressure situations. We had a really enjoyable weekend bonding as a team and look forward to the rest of the season.”