Following the surprising loss to Penn in early December, the men’s squash team was left with wounded confidence and a pressing need to right the ship. The opportunity to get back on track came this weekend, when some of the best in United States squash descended on New Haven for the USSRA U.S. Team Championships.
The Elis fielded four different squads, including one featuring Bulldog associate head coach Gareth Webber, all of which were extremely successful during the weekend’s competition. The tournament field of 27 teams included groups of professional and college players hailing from states all over the Northeast.
The Yale “A” team of Nick Chirls ’07, Max Samuel ’08, Aaron Fuchs ’10, Moshe Sarfaty ’08 and Todd Ruth ’10 upended NYC “A” on Friday in a 4-1 victory and followed that up with a close win over the “B” squad from Philadelphia, 3-2. The only blemish on the team’s weekend came in a 5-0 loss to Trinity, notoriously the strongest college program in the nation.
“It was important for us to get back out there,” Samuel said. “The best thing was just getting to play a lot of matches and experiencing the competitive setting.”
The strong field and bevy of challenging matches will hopefully prove beneficial for the Elis, especially when they take on the likes of Princeton and Harvard later in the season.
The Harvard match in particular looks promising for the Bulldogs, especially after the Yale “B” squad of Ho Ming Chiu ’08, Francis Johnson ’09, Ethan Oetter ’09, Colin Campbell ’09 and Bill Hatch ’09 ran over the Crimson “B” team in a 5-0 blasting. The second group also added a similarly impressive win over the Greenwich team by the same margin. The unit’s lone setback came at the hands of a strong Philadelphia “A” group.
“This was definitely all about getting our confidence back,” Johnson said. “It showed how hard we worked the week after Penn and it was nice to see how we compared to some of the top players in the U.S.”
The unique tournament format gave players outside the starting ladder a chance to participate in live competition. The Yale “C” team included James Rector ’07, Chris Reid ’10, Russell Feldman ’10, Sharyar Aziz ’10 and Ahmed Khattak ’08. The group went 3-1 overall on the weekend, a testament to the depth of the Yale squash team as a whole.
“This was definitely a new experience for several of us,” Feldman said. “It was great to get on the court and represent Yale.”
Feldman said he believes the game experience is crucial for player development and encountering things that simply can’t be simulated in a practice setting.
The tournament also saw the return of former Yale captain Julian Illingsworth ’06, currently the USSRA No. 1 ranked player under 25, who posted a 3-0 individual record including a victory over Princeton’s Mauricio Sanchez, the USSRA No. 2 ranked player under 25.
The Elis will now take a four-week hiatus from competitive play before heading up to Maine for matches against Bates, Bowdoin and Colby.
“It will be important for us to stay in shape and get on the court a bit during the break,” Johnson said. “But it will also be nice to come back in January and be fresh.”
Some players will take a more leisurely approach during the time off. Samuel said he plans to relax and get his head together. He said he thinks that for some it’s important to stay away from the game and refresh.
No matter what regimen the Elis choose, all know how important each match will be when the calendar turns over. The Bulldogs, now already trying to play catch-up in the Ivy League, know mental and physical preparation will be crucial in 2007.