M. SQUASH | Season ends with fifth-place finish

Though the Elis fought hard, they came up short this weekend at the CSA Team Championships, held Friday through Sunday at Princeton.

The men’s squash team finished out its season with a fifth-place finish. After a crushing defeat in the quarterfinal match on Friday, Yale went on to beat the University of Pennsylvania 7-2 on Saturday and Cornell 6-3 on Sunday. Yale is currently ranked second in the Ivy League, behind Princeton.

On Friday, the Bulldogs suffered a disappointing 4-5 loss against Rochester, a team they had beaten 5-4 on Jan. 11.

“The first time around, we had some great matches go our way,” Sharyar Aziz ’10 said, referencing the Bulldogs’ earlier win over the Yellowjackets this season. “They came in fired up, looking for revenge. We fought hard all the way from Nos. 1 to 9 and in the end came up a bit short. We can’t hang our heads, we just didn’t get the same pieces to fall into place that we did last time.”

Even though the crowd considered Rochester the underdog going into the match, the Elis knew it would be a tough fight.

“They’re an excellent team and we wanted it really badly,” Ethan Oetter ’09 said. “It was rough seeing everyone rush onto the court after the last match and it’s just too bad the loss had to be at Nationals.”

The bottom four all secured wins, including an impressive performance by Colin Campbell ’09 at No. 6. Campbell took down his opponent, Will Newnham, in a five-game battle. After losing the first two 6-9 and 2-9, the senior came back to win the last three games, 9-4, 9-2 and 9-7.

Francis Johnson ’09, playing at No. 8, also managed to pull out a five-game victory. Through the whole weekend, the senior Bulldogs won all of their matches, marking positive ends to their college squash careers.

The Bulldogs placed as high as they could after the quarterfinal defeat. They went on to win 7-2 against the Quakers, whom they had taken down 8-1 in the Bulldogs’ Dec. 6 season opener. On Sunday, Yale faced the Big Red, whom they beat 5-4 on Jan. 17. This time, the Elis secured an even sounder victory, 6-3.

“It was tough to have to go through the motions for the matches after Rochester,” Oetter said. “But our match against Cornell was a great momentum-builder for next year.”

Aziz added, “We have to remember that we’re finishing a dominant season with a record of 16-3. We trained tremendously hard and the seniors set us up really well for next season.”

Though admittedly disappointed about the result at Nationals, the Elis were proud of their overall performance this season.

“We over-performed this season and we were fit and focused throughout,” Oetter said. “If a few things hadn’t worked out just right, it would have been a completely different season.”

For Oetter, this weekend’s tournament was a testament to the unity and sportsmanship of the team.

“Looking around we were the only team present who had all the guys who weren’t in the top nine there,” he said. “It was truly a statement about what Yale squash is all about.”

Looking ahead to next year, the Bulldogs are working toward an even more successful season. The existing talented group of underclassmen will be joined by new recruits, including three international students.

“Next year, we’re going to go in with the same hunger and drive for Nationals and the Ivy Championships as we did this year,” Aziz said.

Head coach Dave Talbott added, “We’re always trying to improve on the last season. The team improved a lot, but didn’t necessarily improve in the standings. When you’re that close to the top, it’s hard to crack.”

The Bulldogs will compete in the CSA Singles Tournament next weekend at Williams in Williamstown, Mass.

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