The men and women’s squash teams both have an extra week to focus on their match against Harvard after inclement weather and icy roads kept the Bulldogs from making the trip to Cambridge last night for the highly anticipated match.
The Eli women will now face the unusual situation of playing for the Howe Cup championship — held Friday to Sunday at the Brady Squash Center — before the end of the regular season, and the men will have an open weekend before both squads face the Cantabs on Feb. 21.
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It has been one year since the Yale campus buzzed with excitement about a late February matchup with the Crimson. One year since the Cantabs came into New Haven and — in the de facto Ancient Eight championship for both the men and women — came away with two excruciatingly tight wins. For the men, one year since the Cantabs ruined the Bulldog men’s chances of claiming an outright Ivy League title for the first time since 1990. For the women, one year since Harvard handed the Elis their first loss since 2003.
The story is different this year in the men’s Ivy ranks. Princeton sits alone atop the conference and has left three teams — Yale, Harvard and Penn — to battle for bragging rights and seeding for the upcoming CSA Team Championships. A Bulldogs victory over the Crimson next Wednesday in the team’s final Ivy League match would mean a three-way tie in the Ancient Eight behind the Tigers.
“We want to spoil Harvard’s season,” Moshe Sarfaty ’08 said. “We know we can, especially after the way we played them in the Ivy League Scrimmages.”
The Bulldogs, riding a wave of mild momentum following a 9-0 scorching of Brown last weekend, may have a shot to upset the stumbling Cantabs. Harvard has dropped two matches in a row, including the loss to the Tigers, a contest in which the Crimson were favored.
The boys from Cambridge, a group of seven seniors, may now be questioning themselves, and shaky confidence can play right into the hands of the Elis. One of Princeton’s six wins in the match against the Cantabs came on the first court, where Harvard’s Siddharth Suchde, last year’s Ivy League Player of the Year, unexpectedly fell in straight sets to the Tiger No. 1 Mauricio Sanchez.
“I think the time is right to catch [Harvard] off guard,” head coach Dave Talbott said.
Though Harvard will have another week to get over the Princeton loss and an earlier 5-4 loss to Trinity, the Bulldogs seemed poised to bring back a win. Several players on the team have said a victory in the Bay State would make the season a success, even though the Elis fell short of their Ivy League goals.
The men’s team has no scheduled matches this weekend and so for the second week in a row, the only color on their mind will be Crimson.
The women have a little bit of business on their hands before the three-hour haul to Boston next Wednesday. Since Yale-Harvard was the last scheduled match before the Howe Cup on Saturday and Sunday at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the team’s performance against the Cantabs could have potentially affected their seed for the tournament.
“We were trying really hard that we could go because we really wanted to play.” Lauren McCrery ’07 said. “Today’s results could have affected just how tough our first round matches were going to be.”
Trinity derailed the Bulldogs on Jan. 23 but then fell to the Crimson last week, meaning a Yale win in Massachusetts last night would have caused a three-way tie for the No. 3 seed in the Howe Cup. Because the match was postponed until after the tournament, Yale is now locked into the No. 5 seed.
“We were really gunning for today, everyone was really excited.” McCrery said. “It was unfortunate that we couldn’t play today but we can’t move our seeding one way or the other and are looking forward to [the Howe Cup].”
The teams, who were supposed to depart for Cambridge on Wednesday afternoon, did not find out until 11 a.m. yesterday that they would not be making the trip.
“We were really looking forward to going to [Harvard],” Sarah Barenbaum ’08 said. “Ever since we played Princeton, we were looking forward to this as our next big match.”
In a strange twist, the women Elis will end their season along the banks of the Charles River for the second year in a row. Last year at the Murr Center, the Bulldogs plowed over Brown and Harvard in the first two rounds of Howe Cup play to set up a showdown against Trinity in the finals. Yale stormed back from a 4-2 deficit to topple the Bantams, 5-4, claiming Howe Cup hardware for the third straight year.
“It’s kind of strange playing a regular season match after the [Howe Cup],” she said. “The Howe Cup is usually a really nice ending to the season.”
In the meantime, the Brady Squash Center will be rocking starting tomorrow as it hosts teams from across the nation for the 30-team tournament this weekend. The Bulldogs will kick off their campaign for a fourth straight Howe Cup title with a match against Trinity at 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
“We’re looking forward to Trinity and are really positive.” McCrery said. “We lost a few close five-gamers last time, and hopefully we can turn it around this time and take wins. I think there are a lot of matches that we lost this year that we definitely have the potential to turn around for Howe Cup.”