After four tough matches in five days, the men’s squash team finished its season in fourth place in the College Squash Association Team Championships.
This weekend, after a convincing win over Cornell University (10-7) at the University of Pennsylvania in the quarterfinal round, the Bulldogs (18-4) fell in the semifinal round, 7-2, to Princeton (11-2) and then lost in a consolation match, 5-4, to Harvard (8-4) at Princeton.
The win over the Big Red set up a rematch with the Tigers, whose narrow 5-4 Feb. 1 win over the Elis cost Yale the Ivy League title. But in Saturday’s rematch at Princeton, the Elis could not get as close, losing 7-2.
“It was definitely a disappointment,” said Josh Schwartz ’05, who was forced to retire at position No. 4 because of a leg injury. “We came out a little flat.”
The Bulldogs had only one day to recuperate following their thrilling 5-4 victory at Harvard Feb. 19 before starting the tournament.
In addition, A.J. McCrery ’04, who lost in five games at position No. 5, was battling an illness, head coach Dave Talbott said.
“We just weren’t healthy enough,” Talbott said.
As in the early February meeting between Yale and Princeton, the Tigers’ top half of the lineup proved too dominant for the Elis, who lost positions No. 1 through No. 5, winning only two of 16 games in that span.
The Elis’ only wins came at positions No. 6 and No. 8, where Chris Olsen ’03 defeated Aaron Zimmerman in four games and Ryan Byrnes ’04 beat Nate Beck in four games, respectively.
Olsen’s win was especially impressive. After dropping the first game, 6-9, Olsen stormed back and won 27 of the next 28 points to close the match.
At position No. 1, in a matchup that already had produced two 3-2 thrillers this season, Julian Illingworth ’06 lost to Princeton’s rookie phenom Yasser El-Halaby in three games.
“After losing the first two games the last two matches [Feb. 1 and Nov. 10] he [El-Halaby] was really focused and determined to not get down early,” Illingworth said.
On Sunday, the Elis faced the Crimson for the second time in five days in the consolation match, losing 5-4. Yale could not capitalize on momentum gained from its Feb. 19 victory at Harvard, its first victory in Cambridge in 54 years.
“The effort was good,” Talbott said. “We played really well, [but] we just couldn’t close it out.”
With Schwartz out because of his injury, Aftab Mathur ’03 stepped into position No. 4 and nearly pulled out the victory in his last collegiate match. But Mathur fell to Dylan Patterson 4-9, 9-5 9-4, 2-9, 4-9.
“[It was] probably the best match he’s [Mathur] ever played,” Byrnes said.
At position No.1, Illingworth picked up his first win of the weekend, beating Will Broadbent for the second time in a week 4-9, 9-4, 9-5, 9-5. It took an on court argument with Broadbent for Illingworth to get focused, he said.
With their loss to the Cantabs, the Bulldogs finished the tournament fourth overall, the same position they placed last year.
Earlier in the tournament, Yale defeated Cornell, 7-2, at Penn. Positions No. 7 to No. 9 led the way for the Bulldogs: Gavin Cumberbatch ’04, Ryan Byrnes ’04, and Trevor Rees ’06 all won in three games. The Elis only losses came at positions No. 1 and No. 4.
With the season behind them, things still look good for the Elis next year.
“It’s a team that’s only going to be better next year,” Talbott said.
In the national championship match between Princeton and Trinity College (19-0), the Tigers could not pull off the upset as the Bantams continued to dominate men’s college squash. The 6-3 victory delivered Trinity its sixth consecutive national championship and capped their undefeated season, despite losing matches at positions No. 1 through No. 3.