Squash clobbers hapless Bears

After recent success on the road, the men’s and women’s squash teams returned to Yale’s Brady Squash Center Tuesday where they defeated their Brown counterparts.

The men’s team (15-2) won 8-1, and the women’s team (7-2) won 9-0. The Bulldogs looked convincing in their final home-court tune-up before their remaining tournaments and rematches against Harvard.

The men’s team’s 8-1 win was highlighted by the performances of its three seniors — Chris Olsen ’03, Aftab Mathur ’03 and captain Ziad Haidek ’03 — in their final home matches. With the team’s usual No. 1 Julian Illingworth ’06 recovering from a tryout for the U.S. national team, and the usual No. 3 and No. 4 players out with injuries, head coach David Talbott moved the three seniors into the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 spots. Anshul Manchanda ’04 played No. 1.

Despite the absence of his top players, Talbott said he was confident because of his team’s depth.

“On any given day, anyone can play in the top nine,” Olsen said after defeating Brown’s No. 2 Brad Coronoa (9-4, 9-4, 2-9, 9-5).

Olsen’s observation proved true; No. 3 Mathur and No. 4 Haidek defeated their opponents in straight sets.

Winning seven of its nine matches in three sets yesterday, the team looks ready for its upcoming matches.

Mathur said the main goal of the Brown match was “to prepare ourselves for Harvard next week and Princeton at the Nationals.” Yale faces Harvard Feb. 19 and potentially Princeton at the NISRA meet.

While the men’s team has not won at Harvard since 1949, it feels it has a strong chance next week.

“Beating Harvard is something the team drives for from the first day of practice,” Olsen said.

Last year, Yale beat Harvard at home 6-3.

The women’s team’s only senior — captain Gina Wilkinson ’03 — also came up big in her final Ivy League home match. The women’s team will compete again at home this weekend; it hosts over 300 squash players for the Howe Cup Tournament.

“Although it’s our last home match, I’m looking forward to playing in the Howe Cup and facing Harvard,” Wilkinson said before giving up only two games in three sets to her No. 5 opponent.

Women’s head coach Mark Talbott honored Wilkinson before the match. She was Talbott’s first recruit as Yale women’s head coach, and Talbott called Wilkinson “the best captain I’ve ever had.”

Two other impressive matches were No. 3 Francis Ho’s ’05 9-3, 9-0, 9-0 win over Ali Roche, and No. 6 Ruth Kelley’s ’05 five-set (10-8, 9-1, 8-10, 1-9, 9-4) victory over Phoebe Anderson.

“That was the first time [Kelley] played at No. 6, but she played well and pulled it out in the fifth [set],” Talbott said.

With its final Ivy League match Feb. 19 against Harvard, the women’s team can now focus on this weekend’s Howe Cup, the largest women’s squash tournament in the world. Yale is seeded third in its eight-team division, with Trinity and Harvard seeded No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

The women’s team will face Princeton in the first round Friday.

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Kate Polin
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