Boston, MA – The Virginia men will finish the 2016-2017 season with a 14-7 record and a final ranking of #18 in the nation after reaching the finals of the Summers Cup Division at the 2017 College Squash Association National Team Championships. The Cavaliers entered as the #3 seed and went 2-1 over the weekend, picking up wins over Dickinson and Williams before falling to Middlebury College in the championship match.
Virginia faced a familiar foe in the opening round of play, as they took on Dickinson College for the third time in the past two seasons. Both teams are ascendant in the college squash ranks but Virginia has managed to outpace the Red Devils in the climb upward. In November the Cavaliers prevailed over the Dickinson side at the Naval Academy by a 9-0 margin. This time around, the Devils did earn the win at the #1 position but Virginia carried the remainder of the order to advance to the semi finals with an 8-1 win.
Second-seeded Williams College vaulted past Colby, also by an 8-1 margin, to set up the first ever match between the Ephs and the Cavaliers. Williams drew first blood at the #3 position, as Carl Shuck handed Toby Hansford a 3-0 loss. Virginia responded with a pair of wins at #9 (Dudzik def. Eisenberg) and #6 (Shah def. W. Ruggiero) to go up 2-1 after the opening round of matches. After wins at #8 (Kapp def Smith) and #5 (Woodworth def. Havran), Virginia held a 4-2 advantage for a short time before Williams converted at #1 (J Ruggiero def. Blake) and #4 (J. Shuck def G. Bubrosky) to level the score at 4-4. The match came down to the #7 position, where Killian Bubrosky (UVA) and Mason Elizondo (Williams) went the full five-game distance. Bubrosky came away with the 11-7 fifth-game win to deliver an upset victory for the Virginia side.
According to Virginia head coach Mark Allen, the win marks yet another milestone for his squad: “It’s no exaggeration to call this the most significant win in our men’s team’s history. Williams is a perennial power and is well established as one of the top college squash programs in the nation. The college squash world has seen us coming for a couple of years now and this victory will likely serve as notice that we have arrived.”
With the win, Virginia moved into the Summers Cup finals and another rematch–this time against top-seeded Middlebury College. Virginia upset the Panthers in mid January in a 5-4 nail biter that put the Hoos firmly inside the top twenty in the nation. And the finals more than lived up to the regular season preview. Middlebury was strong out of the gate, winning two of the three matches in both the first and second rounds of play to take a 4-2 lead heading into the final round. Virginia needed to take all three matches, and, for a brief moment it looked possible, with Blake (#1), Grayson Bubrosky (#4), and Killian Bubrosky (#7), all looking good in the early going of each of their matches. But it was Middlebury down the stretch, as the Panthers took the #1 and #4 matches to come away with a 6-3 final and the Summers Cup title.
Playing in his final Nationals weekend for the Cavaliers, fourth year and co captain Stewart Staunton was, in many ways, the embodiment of the transformed Virginia program. As a first year, Staunton played at the #1 position for much of the season but earned his share of rebukes from his coaches as they sought to toughen his mentality and his practice habits. This season, he was the battle-scarred veteran all winter long, gutting out five set challenge matches all season to preserve his station in the top nine. “What’s amazing,” noted assistant coach Grant White, “is how much better Stewart is now than four years ago–it says a lot about how much the level of play has jumped that he is now fighting to start. But it also says a lot about Stewart. He’s reacted to the pressure of the situation as any true leader does; he has just kept getting better and sharper, week in and week out. And now our former #1 is our #9 and he is playing with more passion and focus than ever.”
During Staunton’s first trip to Nationals, as a second year, the Virginia squad opened the tourney with a 4-5 loss to then reigning club champions Stanford University. Just two years later, the headline for Staunton and his team is a 5-4 win over a storied Williams College program.
With their performance at Nationals, the 2017 Virginia men’s squash team concludes the season with a 14-7 record and a final national ranking of #18 in the nation–the best finish in program history.