McDonogh downs Gilman, 5-2, for its second consecutive MIAA Squash championship

by Gary Adornato

Two consecutive championships does not a dynasty make, but it’s a good start.

After ending Gilman’s 10-year reign, last year, as the only varsity squash champion the MIAA had ever known, McDonogh defeated the Greyhounds in the championship match for a second straight year, Thursday, winning back-to-back titles under second year head coach Tyler Ebeling with a 5-2 win at Meadow Mill Athletic Club in Baltimore.

Gilman pushed the Eagles harder than they were able to during a pair of losses (7-0 and 6-1) in the regular season, but McDonogh still had enough firepower to prevail in the final.

Senior All-Americans Alastair Cho (left) and Cullen Little display the MIAA squash championship plaque. Their leadership has led the Eagles to back-to-back titles.

The No. 1 and No. 2 matches were both played on Court 4 at Meadow Mill with the twos going first. McDonogh senior Cullen Little produced the afternoon’s first point with a three set sweep of Gilman’s Charlie East.

Little, an All-American who will play next year at the University of Virginia, was dominate in the opening set, winning 11-3, but East pushed hard in the final two sets. In the second set, Little had to overcome deficits of 3-2 and 7-5 before claiming six of the final seven points to prevail. The third set went back and forth before Little broke a 10-10 tie with two straight points to win the match.

Little, who also has played lacrosse, golf and football, has been playing squash for the last 13 years. He explained his love of the sport.

“The endurance, the mental aspects, the fact that I have always been pretty good for my age, have motivated me to keep playing,” said Little. “There are a lot of subtle aspects to squash that people who don’t watch it regularly really don’t understand, but it is sort of an art in and of itself. So I enjoy how much diversity there is, the way you can play and advance yourself.”

By the time the No. 1 match got underway, McDonogh was leading 3-1 as the Eagles also received points from No. 7 player Joe Radek, with his 11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7 win over James Zollinger of Gilman, and No. 3 Rohan Korn, who swept Gilman’s Winston Park 11-7, 11-2, 11-9. Gilman’s first point was registered by No. 4 player Clark Dowling, who came from behind to win a five set thriller from McDonogh’s Emily Schuster, 11-7, 7-11, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4.

While McDonogh’s No. 1 player, Alastair Cho, another All-American who will play college squash at Princeton University, was in the midst of a highly competitive 11-4, 12-10, 9-11, 11-5 win over Gilman’s Ned Gildea, the Eagles got their championship clinching point from their No. 5 player, Abby Schuster (Emily’s sister), who claimed an 11-9, 11-6, 11-13, 11-2 win over Gilman’s Grant Emry.

Ebeling spoke of value the Schuster sisters bring to his squad.

“They are incredible,” said Ebeling. “That’s Abby and Emily Schuster. They are sisters. Abby is a junior and Emily is a freshman and they are just rock solid. They have won so many clutch matches for us this season. They had an incredible performance last week at nationals. They both won clinching matches in our two victories.”

Cho won the first seven points of the first set to open with an easy win. Gildea, however, opened the second set by winning the first six points. Gildea also had leads of 8-2 and 9-4 and game point at 10-8, before Cho rallied for a 12-10 victory. To his credit Gildea kept battling and pulled out an 11-9 win in the third set. The final game was also close most of the way, but Cho overcame a 6-5 deficit by scoring the final six points to finish off his four set victory.

According to Cho, he and Gildea have had many great matches over the years.

“I actually play with Ned all the time,” said Cho. “He, Cullen, Charlie (East) from Gilman and I are good friends. We all went to Calvert School together, so its always a great fight and he’s diving all over the court, getting all the shots, and I was just trying to get everything back, play my game and it worked out.”

Ebeling explained that his squad’s rise over the last two years boils down to talent and effort.

“We are honestly blessed with some really fantastic players, incredible leadership from our seniors this year, Cullen and Alastair, and a great, deep team,” said Ebeling. “Our kids worked so hard for us this year and they have really earned this for themselves. It’s just been an exciting season with them, the whole way through.”

Gilman’s second point came in the No. 6 match when John Williams prevailed in four sets, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 13-11, over Zain Khon.

NO. 1 Alastai Cho (McD) def. Ned Gildea, 11-4, 12-10, 9-11, 11-5
NO. 2 Cullen Little (McD) def. Charlie East 11-3, 11-8, 12-10
NO. 3 Rohan Korn (McD) def. Winston Park 11-7, 11-2, 11-9
NO. 4 Clark Dowling (GIL) def. Emily Schuster 7-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 11-4
NO. 5 Abby Schuster (McD) def. Grant Emry 11-9, 11-6, 11-13, 11-2
NO. 6 John Williams (GIL) def. Zain Khon 11-8, 8-11, 12-10, 13-11
NO. 7 Joe Radek (McD) def. James Zollinger 11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7