On Sunday afternoon, Cornell’s men’s squash team clinched their fourth ever Hoehn Cup title as No. 5 senior Nikhil Iyer completed the sweep of his opponent in his final collegiate match. After dominating their opponents all weekend long, the team ended the season with a final ranking of ninth place, their best finish since their 2013-2014 season.
After recently falling out of the top eight spots in the College Squash Association’s (CSA) National Rankings, the team competed in the “B” division of the CSA Team National Championships. The No. 9 men’s team (9-7, 2-4 Ivy) were well placed in the top seed for the “B” division, featuring teams ranked from No. 9 to No. 16.
But despite no longer having the opportunity to compete in the top division of the CSA Team National Championships, the Red still worked tirelessly to prepare themselves for the Championships.
“The team trained very hard all season for the National Championships,” said No. 7 sophomore Nick Robinson. “We focused a lot on physical fitness, as well as playing a lot of challenging matches in order to get into match shape. The preparation for Nationals really showed that we were the fittest team in our division.”
On Friday, the Red defeated their first opponent of the Championships, No. 16 Franklin and Marshall (9-11), with a decisive 9-0 sweep. Adding to their dominant victory, seven of the nine match wins came via a 3-0 sweep.
On Saturday, the Red faced off against an Ivy foe in the semi-finals, beating No. 12 Dartmouth (6-10, 1-6 Ivy) 8-1. After another decisive victory, the Red was primed to dominate in the finals.
“I think we prepared really well [in] those three days we had before the championship,” said No. 1 junior Veer Chotrani. “Everyone was focused and ready to give their best.”
Battling it out against No. 10 University of Rochester (7-8) on Sunday, Cornell was determined to finish off their season with a Championship title. Earlier in the regular season, however, the Red had narrowly edged out the Yellowjackets 5-4, so victory was far from guaranteed. But the team did not shy away from the challenge.
“We … had a very good mindset going into the matches, and we were confident that the work we had put in leading up to the championships would get us through,” Robinson said.
The team defeated Rochester confidently with a 7-2 final score. The Red was victorious before their final trio of players even hit the court, as senior Nikhil Iyer clinched the Championship from the No. 5 spot.
“My match was the second to last win we needed to win the Championship,” Robinson said. “When Nikhil’s match ended a few minutes later, securing the Championship, it was an amazing feeling having all of our teammates together and knowing the hard work we put in paid off.”
The men’s team has not hoisted a trophy since the last time they won the Hoehn Cup in their 2006-2007 season.
“It was the best chance for us to lift the trophy, and we did it by losing just 3 matches out of 27, which was really impressive,” Chotrani said.
This year also marked the return of Ivy League sports after the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. Most players had lost a full year of competition and, more importantly, an opportunity to compete for a Championship title.
“The season had a lot of ups and a few downs, but as a whole I was extremely proud of the entire team and how we finished off,” Robinson said. “We all wanted to win so badly as our last season was canceled, and it was the last chance for our seniors to win a championship, so getting it done the way we did was amazing.”
“It was great that the seniors were able to end their college careers with this win,” Chotrani said. “… It’s been a great season overall for us. We had great results this season and our biggest [highlight] was beating Columbia.”
Back in December, the men’s team pulled off an impressive upset against then No. 6, now No. 4 ranked, Columbia University (9-8, 1-5 Ivy). Both teams had battled each other neck-and-neck, with the match knotted up at four wins each. Ultimately, the victory-deciding game came down to Chotrani in the No. 1 spot. He went on to win the decisive match 3-1, completing the upset.
“I think as a unit we put in a lot of hard work, sacrificed a lot and we bore the fruits of the labor in the end, so that was very satisfying,” Chotrani continued. “Last year was obviously really hard with no competition, and we knew that this season we had a pretty solid team since we had a really good freshman class coming in. I think we all performed to the best of our abilities and were really proud to have finished on a winning note.”
Up next, it will be the No. 9 women’s squash team’s turn to compete in the “B” division of the CSA National Team Championships, battling for the Kurtz Cup. They will face their first opponent, No. 16 Bowdoin College (11-7), this Friday in Cambridge, Massachusetts.