If the men’s squash team makes an impressive run in 2007, as it is fully capable of doing, then it might be said that it all started when no one was really paying attention. The Bulldogs’ trip to Maine in early January, a time when almost all students were home for the holidays, appears to be nothing more than a winter break road trip against weaker competition, but the tour may serve as a catalyst for a spirited Ivy campaign in the new year.
In three matches against Bates, Bowdoin and Colby, the Elis put on an almost perfect display, losing only one court in what was a dominating and scintillating performance to jump-start a team still feeling the sting of a loss to Penn a month earlier. Particularly imposing was the strong play from top to bottom in Yale’s ladder, something that will have to continue if the team hopes to make a run at another Ivy League title.
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“It was important for us to go up there and do a good job,” Moshe Sarfaty ’08 said. “With three matches in one day, we wanted to go in and do the job quickly.”
The grueling schedule, which saw the team play three matches in two different cities all in the same day, was one of the most quirky 12-hour spans the Elis will face all season. The setup provided a unique opportunity for the team to test its endurance and mental resolve, once again components that will be hugely important in the coming months.
“The physical fatigue didn’t really hit until a few days after,” Ethan Oetter ’09 said. “But having to warm up and mentally prepare for all of the matches that day itself was absolutely difficult.”
Fortunately, the team had little else to do during break than to prepare for and recover from these matches and the two others the Bulldogs played this past weekend.
Sarfaty said squash is the center of his life during winter break, where everything revolves around the team and the sport. He said he believes there is no better time to prepare for away matches than when all other distractions are eliminated.
Starting Jan. 2, the team generally had two practices a day, a two-hour morning session revolving around drills and a two-hour afternoon session composed of challenge matches and live play.
“The time during break creates a family feel,” Oetter said. “Everyone is working on their games together, eating together and spending time at night together.”
This notable situation for winter athletes, who often return to campus two weeks before everyone else, makes athletics the lone focus during the period, arguably something that happens at no other point during the season.
The camaraderie created during early January, both on the home practice courts and on the road in places like Maine, has immeasurable effects on the remainder of the season.
“It was definitely a great time for team bonding,” Rusty Feldman ’10 said. “It was strange to be here with only squash to focus on.”
The team got a great boost of confidence in the Pine Tree State and in two similarly successful road trips to Williams and Dartmouth, won by similar 6-3 margins. The win in Hanover marks the Elis’ first Ivy League victory this season. They evened their conference record at 1-1, with the only loss in Ancient Eight play coming at the hands of a formidable Penn team on Dec. 2.
The Bulldogs now look poised to make good on their lofty pre-season expectations, and with a mild winning streak forming, they expect to be victorious when they go to upstate New York next weekend for three matches. This time, however, they’ll at least spread those contests over two days.