Craig Dawson was able to fulfill a lifelong dream in March of 2000 when the 1973 graduate of the Naval Academy was handed over the reigns to direct the Navy squash program.
"Having gone to school here with second-to-none facilities, it is a true honor to come back and be the head coach," said Dawson.
The Navy squash program has flourished under Dawson's direction. In fact, Navy has reached 15 wins in each of Dawson's 14 seasons as head coach. Additionally, the Navy squash program has enjoyed just nine 20-win seasons over the course of its 66-year history with Dawson-led teams conquering the 20-win plateau seven times including five of the last six seasons. Navy broke the school record for wins in 2008-09 by turning in a 27-8 record. In 2009-10, the Mids followed up with a 26-8 mark, in 2010-11 they posted a 23-10 record, in 2011-12 they recorded a 23-7 record and in 2012-13 Navy produced a 25-9 record. The seven losses in 2011-12 were the fewest by Navy since the 2004-05 campaign when it posted a 24-7 record.
Dawson became Navy's all-time winningest coach on Dec. 1, 2012, by leading the Mids to an 8-1 win over Tufts. He enters his 15th season as the Mids' head coach boasting a 290-118 (.711) record.
Navy played an abbreviated schedule a year ago, seeing action in just 23 matches where they put together a 15-8 mark and placed 15th at the CSA Team Championship. For the third straight year, Andrew McGuinness and Jim Kacergis paced the team as the No. 1 and 2 players. Kacergis, sophomore Mitch Bottini and rookie Reed Whitney were atop the leader board in wins with 16 apiece.
In 2012-13, Navy was anchored once again by a pair of plebes - Mitch Bottini and Bill Kacergis - who paced the Mids with 27 wins apiece. It's tied as the second-most wins in a single season by a player during Dawson's tenure. Team captain John Richey concluded his career with a 92-32 record, becoming only the third player in school history to win 90 matches and finishing tied for second on the Mids' career wins list.
Despite fielding one of the program's youngest teams in recent memory (five plebes playing among the top five), the Mids showed great promise during the 2011-12 campaign which featured a 5-4 win over ninth-ranked Western Ontario. It was Navy's first win over the Canadian team. Navy came up just short against highly-touted teams Williams, Middlebury and Penn, dropping each of the matches (consecutively) by a 5-4 margin. Meanwhile, Navy placed 13th at the CSA Team Championship, rallying from an opening-round 5-4 loss to Columbia. The Mids came back to deal Brown (8-1) and Middlebury (5-4) losses.
Anchored by the program's all-time wins leader Allan Lutz, Navy concluded the 2010-11 campaign with a 23-10 record, including an impressive 13-3 record in matches played at home. Navy opened up the season on a nine-match winning streak before falling to seventh-ranked Dartmouth on the road. The Mids closed out the year with a tough slate, dropping matches to No. 8 Franklin & Marshall and No. 3 Princeton to end the regular season before finishing 16th at the CSA Team Championship. Meanwhile, Lutz closed out his career with a 99-36 record, capturing the most wins in school history by pushing past former teammate and record holder Nils Mattsson.
The Mids opened up the 2009-10 campaign by winning 12 of their first 13 matches, setting themselves up for an all-around solid season. The Mids put together another winning streak heading into the CSA Team Championship, winning 10 of 12 before placing 13th at the championship and winning two of their three matches. By season's end, Navy came up just one win shy of tying the program record for wins it set just one season prior. The 26-8 Midshipmen were a blend of stout senior leadership and youthful energy that saw four plebes in the lineup by year's end. 2009-10 team captain Nils Mattsson left his mark on the program by earning All-America honors in his senior campaign and finishing with a No. 22 national ranking. The team's success in 2008-09 was also a great reflection of the individual accomplishments the Mids achieved, as well. In fact, eight of the nine players among the ladder finished the season with at least 20 wins, including Allan Lutz, who paced the team with a 27-9 record and was one of two players to represent Navy at the CSA Individual Championship. Lutz, who finished the year ranked 83rd, was joined by Mattsson at the CSA Individual Championship. Mattsson was Navy's No. 1 player a year ago, finishing the season with a 25-7 record and was ranked No. 39 in the country.
The 2007-08 campaign was highlighted by several individual and team accomplishments. Despite battling a foot injury for much of the early part of calendar year, 2008 graduate Tucker George, the program's only four-time winner of the Barb Trophy, was selected as Navy's first All-American since Jamie Slough in 1994. Fellow senior and team captain Jeff Sawin graduated as the winningest player under Dawson's leadership with a spectacular 89-30 (.748) record which featured a team-best 23-6 record in 2007-08. Allan Lutz, meanwhile, made an immediate impact in his rookie campaign by turning in a 23-8 record, alternating between No. 3 and 4 on the ladder.
Navy also played host to the College Squash Association Men's and Women's Individual Championship. With the help of the Naval Academy administration, better than 2,300 Midshipmen and fans packed Halsey Field House to set a tournament record and cheer on Tucker George. Both Sawin and Lutz closed out the season by each taking the consolation title in their respective brackets at the individual championship.
Meanwhile, Dawson led Mids to a third-place finish at the 2008 Women's College Squash Association Howe Cup Championship. One of six emerging women's teams, it was the first time Navy has sent a women's team to compete in the championship.
In 2006-07, the Mids put together back-to-back wins over Brown and Bates before dropping a 5-4 heart-breaker against Cornell to finish 10th at the College Squash Association's Team Championship, the Mids' best finish under Dawson's leadership. Additionally, for the first time in program history, Navy sent a pair of players into the championship match of the Molloy Division at the CSA Individual Championship. Jeff Sawin looked to have the match sewn up when teammate Nils Mattsson, a freshman, rallied for the title. Navy concluded its season with a 23-8 team record, while seven players on the ladder turned in 20-plus wins, including Sawin who boasted a team-best 28-4 record.
Navy was paced by youth in 2005-06, fielding three freshmen and three sophomores among its starting ladder. The Mids handled the pressure well, producing a 19-8 record and a 15th-place finish at the NISRA Championship. Once again, Dawson helped produce two top-100 players, including Tucker George who was ranked No. 47 and Jeff Sawin at 83rd.
Dawson led Navy to a 24-7 record in 2004-05, establishing a school record for wins in a season. Three players ended the season ranked among the top 75 in the country, including freshmen sensations Tucker George and Jeff Sawin, ranked 41st and 71st, respectively.
In 2003-04, the Mids produced a 15-9 record and finished the year ranked No. 16. Seniors Edson Greenwood and David Haile were among the country's top 60, as Greenwood ranked No. 47 and Haile was 58th. Meanwhile, fellow senior Kinleong Ho was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship by his home country of Singapore.
Navy not only tacked on two more wins to its victory total (19-7) during the 2001-02 campaign, it was the recipient of the 2001-02 Team Sportsmanship Coaches Award at the NISRA Championship Banquet. The Midshipmen were recognized by the member schools of NISRA who voted to award Navy this prestigious honor. It's the second time in the last four years in which Navy has received the honor, as it was awarded the same recognition in 1998.
In season two, he paved the way for the Mids to finish a step higher at the NISRA Team Championship with an 11th-place finish. A week later, Dawson brought three Mids to the NISRA Individual Championship where Andy McCann, David Haile and Edson Greenwood all played exceptionally well. In his inaugural season as head coach, Dawson led the Midshipmen to a 17-7 record and a 12th-place finish at the NISRA Team Championship. Meanwhile, he helped tutor former team captain Andy McCann to a top-50 individual ranking by season's end.
While playing both tennis and squash for Navy, Dawson was an All-America squash player and an All-East singles and doubles player. Additionally, he was the captain of both teams during his senior season.