Demons Squashed as Fordham Takes Home Chaffee Cup


The Third time was a charm for Fordham Squash over the weekend as they took home the Chaffee Cup. (Courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

By Jimmy Sullivan

The 2016-17 Fordham squash team came one match short of winning the Chaffee Cup after a 6-3 loss to Richmond. Last year’s squad set out to avenge that loss, but suffered the same fate with a loss to New York University in the Chaffee Cup final.

This year’s team desperately wanted to go one step further than the previous two. On Sunday, it accomplished that feat.

Fordham won its first Chaffee Cup title in recent memory on Sunday after a 6-3 win over Northeastern University. The team won the Cup after winning its first two matches of the weekend against NYU and Hamilton College at Wesleyan College before taking Sunday’s match at Yale University.

“It felt amazing to win the Chaffee Cup, especially after narrowly losing in the final for the last two years,” senior Justin Esposito said. “It was a great way to finish my squash career at Fordham.”

The College Squash Association team championship started on Friday for Fordham, as they took on NYU at 1:15 p.m. The Rams got a second shot at the Violets, who ended their season in heartbreak at last year’s Chaffee Cup final. Through five individual matches on Friday, it looked like NYU was going to repeat last year’s performance.

Coach Sahel Anwar’s Rams fell behind 1-4, and the team’s only win was a victory by senior Will Pantle in which his opponent, Hamaad Jary, was forced to retire. There were four remaining individual matches, and Fordham needed to win all of them. That was when the team’s best players rose to the occasion.

Sophomore Justin Deckoff and freshman Jack Reed both got Fordham back in it with wins over Karan Kochnar and Max White, respectively. Senior Justin Esposito took care of business, as well, with a straight-set victory over Rishabh Periwal. With these three straight wins, it was up to senior Will Beatrez to take down Alex Murphy and pull off a miracle comeback to keep Fordham’s tournament hopes alive.

He did just that.

Beatrez and Murphy split the first two sets to create a best-of-three, winner-take-all scenario. Their third-set tangle required more than the customary 11 points to decide a winner, and Beatrez finally pulled ahead by two to win 15-13 and turn the tide of the match. The same happened in the fourth set, and Beatrez once again pulled out to win 12-10 and send NYU home. With their backs firmly against the wall, Fordham prevailed, just like it has for most of the season.

Fordham started the next day’s match against Hamilton College in a similar fashion. The Rams fell behind 3-2 after five matches, but as the prior evidence has shown, Fordham had the Continentals right where it wanted them.

Deckoff faced off against Jarrod Gerstein in the sixth of nine individual contests with Fordham in need of a victory. The match went the distance, with Deckoff gaining a slight advantage and taking home a win in a 7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-3, 11-9 thriller. Fordham never looked back, as Reed, Esposito and freshman Dylan Panichello all won their matches in straight sets to send Fordham back to the Chaffee Cup final for the third year in a row.

Sunday’s match against Northeastern bore an eerie resemblance to last year’s Chaffee Cup title match against NYU. In both matches, Fordham fell behind 3-2 after the first five individual tilts, and this year, the Rams did so after junior William Douglass and senior Will Pantle won the first two contests.

The question became simple: did the Rams have one more comeback in them with four matches left in their season?

Deckoff took care of business with a four-set victory over Isaiah Jones, which tied the match at three. Reed would face Connor Rouan next in what quickly became the biggest match of Fordham’s season. Reed and Rouan split the first four sets, including a 13-11 result that went Fordham’s way in the first set. Then, Reed did what he has done all season and stepped up in the biggest moment of the year with an 11-9 fifth-set victory to put the Rams up for good.

Esposito took care of Will Greaves-Tunnell in four sets in the next match, and Fordham clinched its first Chaffee Cup in recent memory. This year’s group avenged the sting from the past two years’ losses.

The moment is particularly sweet for Esposito, whose status for this season came into question after he suffered an undisclosed injury.

“It was definitely one of the best moments for me,” he said. “I am so lucky to have been able to start in every match for the team this season, compete at nationals, and help us win our division.”

When it was all said and done this past weekend, Fordham walked away with a prize it had wanted and nearly won the past two seasons. The Chaffee Cup is coming to the Bronx, and just like the teams Fordham played this weekend, the Rams will have it right where they want it.