JUSTIN FORTIER ’18
Rick Penders ’18 has an unassuming posture at 6 feet and 175 pounds, but has quickly established himself as one of the best college athletes in the country.
Last season he gave Trinity the go-ahead win over St. Lawrence in the Potter Cup final match, returning the coveted championship title to the Trinity Bantams. He was considered under-ranked by many of his teammates last year as he played in Trinity’s 5th slot due to arriving midway through the year.
In the world of sports like squash, wrestling and tennis the team rankings and composition are determined internally. So just because a player plays at the number one slot does not mean that the player is indeed the absolute best player on the team. However, this season Penders has proved to be a truly dominant player deserving of the 1st seed. After his first match and only loss, Penders has went on to decisively defeat opponents though athleticism, mental superiority and a combination of focus and drive on the court that is unmatched.
This season has been fairly routine for the Bantams, where most results are 9-0 with a few 8-1 and only two 7-2 outcomes. Only one match has dipped close to the middle and that was a thrilling 5-4 win over the University of Rochester Yellow Jackets, the only team to have beaten the Bantams last season with a result of 4-5.
This year, after all the lower eight matches had been played, the score rested at 4-4 and the fate of the redemption match was on the line. At this time the other matches had wrapped up Penders was 1-1 with Rochester’s Mario Yanez who took the first set 8-11 and Penders following with the second set 11-6 and the third 11-8. Yanez countered in the fourth set using his speed and agility to out maneuver Penders’s harder and more physical playing style 5-11.
The fate of the team’s record was to be decided in the last set of the last match. The lead exchanged several times in the last set until it drew even at 9-9. Tensions were high and a point had to be replayed. After two intense rallies, Penders pulled away with the victory, and with his Trinity won as well.
During the match, the center pyramid was only partially filled with mostly players and handful of fans, while head Coach Paul Assiante watched alone from a side bench with a serene intensity. The stands may have not been packed like a Harvard or Yale match, but the energy in the room was even greater. Everyone watching knew what was at stake, and understood that this match was going to be some of the highest level of squash to be played this year, and years to come. Coach Assiante remarked after the game, that this match would go down in Trinity squash history as one of the best matches ever played.
Going forward in the year, Penders hopes to continue to lead the team to another national championship, and to climb in the ranks from his number nine national rank last year to claim the top spot.