Men’s squash pulled out a tournament win at the Conroy Cup on Feb. 17-19, taking home the trophy for the first time since 1992. The team went up against New York University (NYU) in the “D” Division on Feb. 17, winning by a score of 8-1. They then defeated Bowdoin on Feb. 18 by a score of 5-4, and finally, in a heart-stopping finish, the team took first place in a 5-4 victory against Hobart on Feb. 19. The Argus sat down with the four first-year players to hear about the whirlwind event and their experiences on the team as a whole.
The Argus: Start off with the tournament this past weekend. Generally break it down.
Will Bienstock ’20: I felt like the weekend really started off on Thursday night because one of our seniors, Chris Hart [’17], called for a team meeting. And we all went over to Chris’ [house] and we sat down and—this had evolved from a tradition he had done in high school, in which, on his football team, seniors would give advice to some of the underclassmen going into their final match of the year. Our seniors had each prepared a few words and spoke about some of the things they had learned over the four years on the team and what we should anticipate going into the first, or second nationals, depending on whether you’re a freshman or a sophomore. And it really set the tone for the weekend.
A: That’s awesome! Any advice that stuck out?
Alex Dreyfus ’20: I think, for me, at least, the prevailing idea that they talked about and that stuck out to me was that we’ve worked really, really hard for this and this is the last weekend of the year, so, win or lose, we have no other opportunity to let that pay off. And I know that the seniors definitely helped guide us there between matches and stuff like that. Making sure we were getting to bed on time, making sure we were eating well when we’d go out to eat, and creating the possibility for us to use the stuff we’d practiced in matches.
Johnny Hayes ’20: [In squash,] you have people on the back-burners just in case. Hi, I’m back-burner, nice to meet you.
WB: Not for long!
JH: So there’s something to be said for the course of nine matches having to sit outside and just watch. You know, watch the people you’ve been training with and working really hard with just win or lose, like it’s a big thing. And it’s also the most stressful, anxiety-inducing thing ever. So, one of our seniors [Z Roach ’17], in the finals, was down in a best of five game, was down 2-0, and everyone’s like, “Oh my god.” Like, if he had lost, we wouldn’t have won the finals. It’s pretty simple. Then he comes back and destroys the guy. It was huge. And once you get to that point—it’s like, you get to this point where you’re like, “Oh man, this can’t get any more intense,” then it gets more intense and you’re like, “How am I, like, alive right now in this moment?” And it’s really like, you grow with these people and you learn with these people and you work—you run 21 by 10 court sprints and want to die with these people, so like, seeing them on court is just really powerful in a different way.
A: What drew you all to Wesleyan athletics and Wesleyan squash? What about the program or the school or the people stuck out to you?
Premchai Bunsermvicha ’20: For me, it’s definitely the people. I’m definitely a walk-on. I’m like the definition of a walk-on. I came to this school and, I’d played squash in high school, only winter season, for four years and just came to college like, “No way I’m gonna play squash, right?” Didn’t bring my stuff from home, which is Thailand. Literally so far, right? And like first day of classes, my first class, 8:50 a.m., a class of 150 people…the person who was sitting behind me was this guy who I’d been playing in high school for four years. I know Johnny from high school as well, like, we played against each other…
JH: I won.
PB: …and [this guy] is like, “Dude, what are you doing? Why are you not on the team?” And I was like, “I don’t know! I didn’t really think about it and didn’t think I was good enough.” And then I considered joining the team and then that weekend I met Will [Bienstock] at the falafel truck and that just solidified it for me. Meeting Will and meeting all my old friends from high school, I was just like, “Wow, there’s just so many great people.” And then I went on court for a few weeks and then met the whole team and never looked back. It was like the best decision ever, probably. Met my soul mate, Alex [Dreyfus].
JH: So I visited this school last fall, and I knew immediately that I wanted to come here, but I wasn’t sure about playing squash, because it was hard enough competing and playing any sport at all pretty much, but playing a sport and also being openly gay was just such a big thing. When I first tried to join my high school squash team, my teachers who were supposed to recommend me would be like “Oh, don’t take him. He’s too artsy.” So to say that I had to work harder than everyone else [is] a bit of an understatement. But I came to Wes and I met the team and I was like, “Okay, they seem like really nice people, but I’m not sure.” So then I got in contact with an alumnus from the squash team; his name is John Steele [’14]. [Steele is] easily the best thing to ever come into and come out of Wesleyan squash. He was captain, won like everything he ever played, and was also openly gay. So we started talking through email and he was essentially the reason I decided to apply here early decision and stick with the team, and then I’m here.
A: In what ways has squash shaped your freshman year so far?
JH: Oh, there was no freshman 15.
WB: I lost weight!
AD: Speak for yourself! There’s a bell curve. [It] came off in winter training, but I put on some insulation.
WB: I mean, I’d say that the squash men and women’s teams are exceptionally close. I honestly think of our team not as the men’s squash team but as the combined men and women’s team, because we train together. So collectively, that group of 25 people or so is definitely a pocket of just my closest friends on campus, who I have the pleasure of seeing every afternoon for the most part. So I know every day I wake up, whether I’m having a bad day or a good day, I have that to look forward to. It’s given me a schedule.
A: Were there any particular moments that stood out to you in this season?
AD: Conroy Cup!
WB: Conroy Cup! That’s become like a rallying cry for our team. Yeah, there [were] a couple of wins that really stuck out to me. I thought that Kevin Le [’19] had one win against Hamilton that was just a marathon of a match that went to five games, and then he won, I think 20-18 in the fifth, which is like insane because you play to 11, so he played an absurdly long match. And that was a huge moment. [At] NESCACs, we outplayed our seed ranking, which was great going into the final course of the season, for Nationals, and then the Nationals, Grant [Lounsbury ’17]’s win was absurd. Dreyfus played the best match of his life.
AD: This is a fact.
WB: Which was incredible.
AD: Honestly, we had a good season, a fun season, but I really don’t think that there’s anything that holds a candle to what we accomplished this past weekend. There was no match that was as close, no setting in which everyone was so jointly passionate. Passionate isn’t even the right word, it was like…
WB: It was like a fervor.
AD: This is the only thing that we care about, this is the only thing that anyone is thinking about, this is the only goal we have this weekend, we’re not gonna lose. And we didn’t.
WB: Our seniors set the tone from the beginning, and they made everyone on the team believe from the second we went into it, even though we weren’t the top seed, that we were going to win. There wasn’t an option other than that. And so it wasn’t even a problem. Like, we didn’t have anything to be nervous about because each of us was going to win every single match we played; that’s how we felt when we stepped on court. And obviously that didn’t end up being the case, but enough of us would win at a time, and it was a different cast of characters each time, it worked out.