After placing sixth at the national championship tournament last season, the men’s squash team has returned to the courts with aspirations to win it all. The Elis have gotten off to a strong start, dominating four of their first five matches and winning their fifth, 5–4, over Williams. The News sat down with team captain Hywel Robinson ’13 to discuss the beginning of the year and his time at Yale.
Q: Obviously, the team has begun the season strongly. What do you think has contributed to the hot start?
A: I think, first of all, the coaches have been really good this year. [Head coach] Dave [Talbott], [associate head coach] Pam [Saunders] have been really hands-on, really working hard and really making everything a lot more squash-specific and catered to individual needs. The addition of Lewis Walters, our new coach, has been tremendous. Lewis is a top-100 professional player ranked in the world, and brought some really great insight into the team, kind of a whole new level. On top of that, people have stepped up, a lot of players are playing a lot better than they did last year. … [You] can see that we can do something really big this year. We’ve got the opportunity to win it all, to go undefeated, and people are playing with that sort of confidence. And then, finally, the preparation. We put in a long, hard fall season where we were [in] Monday mornings at 7 a.m., weight lifting an additional twice a week and then training every day from 4 till 6, 4 till 7, Monday through Friday, then in on Saturdays as well.
Q: I was going to ask what the goal for the season was, but it sounds like it’s to win it all.
A: The goal for the season, yeah, is to win it all. … It’s really the same as any other squash team out there competing. … Anyone can go out and win it, which was proved on the weekend when Princeton’s team took down Harvard, and Harvard are kind of unofficial favorites this year, so it just shows how wide-open everything is this year.
Q: You talked about guys stepping up and the team’s fall workouts. Are there other things that make this year’s team different from the other three Yale teams that you’ve been on?
A: Not at all. The great thing is, this program started reaching its heights when I was a freshman due to our captain freshman year, Todd Ruth ’10, who was inspirational in kind of changing the whole work ethic of the team, and he really turned the program around. And then Naishadh Lalwani ’11, our captain two years ago, really kind of took on a whole new level, introduced new things again. Ryan Dowd ’12 was an inspiration, you know, he was a great, great captain who continued further in the work, so for me, my job’s been really easy.
Q: You were named captain before this year. What does it mean to you personally to have that honor?
A: To be chosen as a captain by your peers, not by your coach, is a huge, huge honor. It shows the players have a trust in you, and they’ve chosen you because they feel you’re the best person for the job. But I am so fortunate to have people like Richard Dodd ’13 and Kenneth Chan ’13, who are two incredible players in their own way, who whenever I’m kind of stuck for ideas or whenever I’m lacking a little bit of energy, these guys happily step up to the plate and these two guys could be the captains themselves. The only thing I do is I go out there and shake hands with everyone, but it’s a real senior team effort, and even the juniors as well, people like Neil Martin ’14 who is helping design practices, helping run everything a lot as well. He’s been a real asset to the team this year.
Q: It’s your last season here. What’re you going to miss about playing Yale squash?
A: Competing. The adrenaline rush and the excitement before you go on is second to none. I’ve competed in junior tournaments since I was 11 and now, next year will be the first time in 12 years when I wake up on a Saturday in the middle of February, middle of January or February, and don’t have to compete. It’s going to be a different experience.