The Yale men’s squash team extended its win streak to four after defeating Princeton last weekend, but that victory did not come easy.
The No. 2 Bulldogs (11–1, 4–0 Ivy) barely edged out a No. 3 Tiger team (6–1, 3–1), 5–4, continuing the Elis’ hope to defend their Ivy League title. The last time a school won the title without a loss was in the 2005-’06 season when Harvard, Princeton and Yale shared the top spot.
“Now, all we need to do is beat Harvard and Brown to be undefeated in Ivy League play for two years,” captain Naishadh Lalwani ’11 said.
Last year, Yale defeated Princeton handily, 6–3. But this year, the story was different as Princeton boasted a team with more depth than last season.
Yale got off to a quick 2–1 start against their Ivy League foes with strong wins from players such as Christopher Plimpton ’11 at the ninth spot. But the lead was short-lived as Yale struggled to find wins in the next three contests to go on court.
“We went into the match knowing that it was going to be a hard match at every position,” Plimpton said. “Princeton has always been a tough competitor and we knew they would bring everything they had after we upset them last year to become Ivy Champions.”
The next set of matches featured a showdown at the No. 2 position between Princeton’s David Letourneau, ranked No. 4, against Yale’s Kenneth Chan ’13, ranked No. 8.
Chan got off to a slow start and Letourneau’s tactful play made it hard for Chan to make a comeback. The Eli ended up dropping the first game 8–11. Chan got off to a quick 3–0 start in the second game, but he was unable to maintain that margin later on when Letourneau varied the pace of play to his favor. Chan eventually lost 8–11.
Chan would not give up without a fight. He took the third set 11–9, but got off to another slow start in the fourth game. Chan battled back to tie the game at six points a piece, but he then missed a serve that sent the momentum back to Letourneau, who would go on to take the match.
“Princeton is always a tough team to play,” Chan said. “They have a very strong program and have been a powerhouse for the past few years.”
The Tigers and the Bulldogs came into the final three contests tied at 3–3. The vocal Princeton crowd cheered on No. 1. Todd Harrity, on as he took on Yale’s Hywel Robinson ’13. Despite Robinson’s best efforts, he was unable to gain any ground against Harrity and lost in straight games, 0–3.
John Roberts ‘12 battled at the No. 7 spot to tie up the overall match score, winning 3–0.
“Knowing that we needed to win both the last two matches in order to win, it was difficult to focus solely on my match,” Roberts admitted. “But, I just kept saying to myself to do my part and I had full confidence that Naishadh was going to pull it out.”
With the pressure of the match’s outcome on his shoulders, Lalwani took the court knowing he would have to win his match for a Yale victory.
The Tigers’ Peter Sopher came out quickly and took the opening game 11–8, quieting an excited Yale crowd. But Lalwani would not let his team down and continued to battle in the second game, taking it 11–8.
But Plimpton said that Lalwani’s superior fitness proved to be critical in the third and fourth games, both of which Lalwani took 11–5.
“I tried not to think about it too much and focus on the squash,” Lalwani said. “It obviously got harder to do that as it went on but luckily I was able to hold it together and come through for the team.”
The Bulldogs will take on No. 13 Middlebury on Tuesday at the Brady Squash Center. The match is slated to start at 6 p.m.