Report courtesy of Ted Price
In one of the most exciting Price-Bullington Invitational finals ever, the University of Pennsylvania dominated both the men’s and women’s divisions. The forty-eighth annual autumnal collegiate tournament was again staged at the Country Club of Virginia in Richmond.
Andrew Douglas, defeated last year in the early rounds as he came down with the flu, lived up to his billing as possibly the strongest American player currently in college squash. As two seed, Douglas won his first match against P-BI qualifier Stephen O’Dwyer in three (11-6, 11-2, 11-5) and then defeated Harvard’s highly-touted freshman Marwan Tarek in four hard fought games. Douglas’s match against three seed Spence Lovejoy of Yale in the semifinals was a match of players of similar strategies, although Douglas’s lightening-like quickness and persistence won the day: 10-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-7. The P-BI has a new rule of sudden death at 10-all, rather than win by two, so the end of many games at the P-BI were exciting.
At the top end of the draw, top seed Kush Kumar of Trinity, a semifinalist in the 2016 P-BI as a freshman, also dominated his opponents. He quickly subdued Jose Calderone and then Mike Mehl of Penn in three games, but in the semifinal, Kumar found the going a little tougher as he met Ashley Davies of Rochester who tried to pound every ball through the front wall of the court. The ricochets were thunderous and allowed Davies to win the second game. By the third game, however, Davies had exhausted himself and Kumar’s steady and accurate shots finished the Rochester sophomore off, 11-9, 10-11, 11-7, 11-4.
The men’s final featured two players with dissimilar styles, both lovely sportsmen in surprisingly good shape so early in the season and a five-game match to top things off. There were multiple points of forty shorts. At times Douglas was like a cat on the court, reminding some observers of a young Ralph Howe (circa 1964). He could ignite blistering rails and long-held cross-courts. The last point of the second game was one of the greatest points in P-BI history. when the Penn sophomore, racing to recover a deep Kumar left wall volley, slipped and fell in mid court. During a long rally, Douglas’s return was a weak boast, which bounced toward the middle of the frontcourt. Ready for this, Kumar hammered his return down the right wall! Out of Kumar’s sight, Douglas bounced to his feet, correctly anticipating the deep right rail blast from Kumar and was there to meet the shot. Douglas’s volley return ripped by Kumar so fast that the latter had no chance to get his racquet on it. Even the spectators’ mouths dropped open. Douglas won 11-10, 10-8, 10-11, 5-11, 11-8.
The men’s first-round consolation was won by Princeton’s Adhitya Raghaven over Columbia’s Carter Robitaille in four games:, 11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6. The second-round consolation was won by Harvard’s Marwan Tarek over Penn’s Mike Mehl, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6.
The women’s division of the P-BI featured top seed Reeham Sedky of Penn and CSA national champion. The next three seeds, all veterans of the 47th P-BI, were Gina Kennedy, Harvard junior and CSA finalist, Kayley Leonard, Harvard senior, and Lucy Beecroft, Yale junior. A final between Sedky and Kennedy was widely anticipated from the outset. In the 2017 CSA Individuals, Kennedy defeated Sedky for the crown while the reverse happened in the 2018 Individuals.
As both women are known as excessively hard hitters it was expected that one or the other might try a different tact to put her opponent off, but this was not to be the case. In the end, Sedky’s power was greater than Kennedy’s and this was enough. Sedky started each game off with a flurry of mind-numbing blows that went right by Kennedy. The Harvard junior made an effort to slow the match down with a few drops and nicks, but Sedky continued her strategy of overwhelming her opponent with power. The match became a series of hard shots, whiplash volleys, blistering crosscourts and great retrievals as the players hammered the ball. The points were even throughout with long hard rallies keeping the crowd glued to the contest. One player would nick perfectly to win a point and the other would return the favor on the next point. Shots were tight and hit was great authority. The final point came as Sedky’s power caused Kennedy to hit an off stride backhand. As the ball came toward the middle of the court, Sedky faked left and then wristed a deep crosscourt to the right corner. Game match and the P-BI championship (for the third year in a row) to Reeham Sedky: 11-6, 11-8, 11-10.
In the women’s consolation tournament, GWU’s Min Jie Teh came back from an opening 1st game deficit to win 10-11, 11-5, 11-2, 11-10 over Trinity’s Vanessa Raj. The 3/4 playoff was won by Harvard’s Kayley Leonard over Yale’s Lucy Beecroft in a hard fought five-game match, 11-8, 10-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-8. The 7/8 playoff was won by GWU’s Zoe Han who, in a great show of determination, overcame a two-game deficit against Princeton’s Raneem El Torky to win in five games 10-11, 7-11, 11-10, 11-9, 11-5.