In the past 87 years, the men’s squash team has only taken down the Crimson three times while playing in Cambridge, Mass. Make that four.
On Wednesday night, in their final conference match, the Elis (14-2, 5-1 Ivy) topped Harvard (6-4, 3-3 Ivy) in one of their toughest matches of the season, 5-4.
“Five guys really found a way to win,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “We knew it was going to be close and we accomplished what we wanted to, given the circumstances. It’s always tough playing an away game on a Wednesday night.”
Francis Johnson ’09, Colin Campbell ’09 and CJ Plimpton ’11, playing at No. 7, 8 and 9, respectively, came up with three decisive wins for the Bulldogs.
“Our depth made all the difference,” Talbott explained. “We only lost one game in those three spots, all three of them played really solidly.”
Aaron Fuchs ’10 crushed his opponent in the No. 4 spot, winning 9-5, 9-4 and 9-4.
“The guy that I was playing was a good player, but he had weaknesses and I exploited them,” Fuchs said. “I hit shots that made him move all over the court.”
Also playing smart squash was Todd Ruth ’10 at No. 2. The junior had a tough match against Harvard senior Verdi DiSesa, a player who has triumphed in his games against Yale throughout his college career. DiSesa, who rarely loses in the fifth game, posed a huge challenge for the Yale junior. Showing unrelenting determination, Ruth pulled out a 3-2 victory, 9-5, 9-2, 8-10, 0-9 and 10-9.
“It was a tough one — the kid I was playing just got everything back and it ended up being a two-hour match,” Ruth said. “I had a match at 8-9 down and I felt like if I could push through one more time, I would be okay.”
His teammates attributed his ability to withstand such a long match to his off-the-court conditioning.
“Todd’s match was one of his best all year,” Sharyar Aziz ’10 said. “He showed an unbelievable amount of heart. To get the win that he did against the player that he did shows how much he worked and how much it paid off.”
Captain Ethan Oetter ’09 added, “This was the match of his Yale career so far. He knew what was at stake and instead of crumbling under the pressure, he played the best squash I’ve ever seen him play.”
The rest of the matches were close, including heartbreaking 2-3 losses for Ryan Dowd ’12 at No. 6 and Naishadh Lalwani ’11 at No. 5.
“In the fifth game both of my legs started cramping,” Dowd said. “I did my best to tough it out. While I was playing, No. 5 and No. 2 were still on the court. Luckily one of those matches went our way.”
Lalwani fell to J. Reed Endreson in a five-game nail-biter. The sophomore won the second and fourth matches, but went down 10-8 in the fifth.
“It was a pretty tough loss,” Lalwani said. “It was such a long, hard match and it’s hard to lose like that. I felt like I had it and for some reason I just couldn’t pull it out.”
Though Wednesday night’s match was one of the Bulldogs’ tougher battles of this season, they are using it as motivation for the CSA Teams National Tournament next weekend.
“This was a good match to play before Nationals,” Aziz said. “There’s still work to be done if we’re going to push through next weekend. Harvard definitely came out strong and it gave us some momentum for the next 10 days.”
The Elis will face this season’s toughest rivals during the CSA Teams National Tournament in Princeton, N.J., on Feb. 20 to 22.