Gaining their first in-game experience of the year at the Ivy Scrimmages this weekend, both the men’s and women’s squash teams proved that they can compete at a high level.
The men’s team won its first two matches, but lost to Harvard in the championship of the tournament. The women’s team defeated Penn in a consolation match to finish third after falling to Harvard in the semifinal round.
“We’re pretty happy with [our performance],” men’s captain Eric Caine ’14 said. “We outperformed people’s expectations, but at the same time, we have areas to improve on.”
All Ancient Eight schools compete in the single-elimination tournament, held this year at Yale, every Fall. As its name implies, the event does not count towards any of the schools’ records, but allows teams to estimate the progress of their training.
Both Bulldog squads surpassed expectations at the Scrimmages, as the men’s and women’s teams were seeded third and fourth, respectively, based on preseason rankings by the Collegiate Squash Association.
David Talbott, who serves as head coach for both Yale teams, said that the men’s performance was especially surprising because the team graduated its top three players last season. He credited freshmen Kah Wah Cheong ’17, Thomas Dembinski ’17 and Liam McClintock ’17 for the squad’s quick rebound.
“This year was looking to be a bit of a rebuilding year,” Talbott said. “But the freshmen really stepped up, and maybe exceeded expectations in terms of where they are at this point.”
Throughout the weekend, Neil Martin ’14 was particularly strong for the Yale men, winning all three of his matches against Columbia, Princeton and Harvard. In his Princeton matchup, Martin swept an opponent who had defeated him 3–0 just a week before in an individual tournament.
For the women, No. 2 Kim Hay ’14 and No. 4 Issey Norman-Ross ’15 also went undefeated during the weekend. Hay was cleared to play just a month ago after injuring her Achilles tendon this past January.
The Eli women made a statement in their opening game with a perfect sweep of fifth-seeded Cornell, the sixth ranked team in the CSA rankings.
The men showed similar domination in the first round of the tournament, defeating sixth-seeded Columbia 7–2. The team’s only losses were at the top of the ladder, as Cheong and Dembinski fell to brothers Ramit Tandon and Rishi Tandon at numbers one and two, respectively. Ramit Tandon is ranked third individually in the country by the CSA.
In the women’s tournament, Yale moved on to play Harvard, last year’s CSA champion and the first ranked team in the preseason. The Bulldogs again proved their strength in a remarkably close match, but finished with a 5–4 loss.
Millie Tomlinson ’14, playing at the number one position, lost an extremely close match to Harvard’s Amanda Sobhy, who is undefeated in her college career.
“[Tomlinson] played incredibly,” Fast said. “Each game was so tight until the very end, and I think she might have surprised herself a little.”
The men’s team played second-seeded Princeton in the semifinals with a chance to make the finals in six consecutive Ivy Scrimmages. With seven matches completed, the Bulldogs held a slim 4–3 advantage.
Caine took his opponent to five games at the number seven spot. The final game was tied 8–8 when Caine scored three points in a row to win the game — and clinch the match — for Yale.
“At some point, when it’s eight-all in the last game of a match, it just comes down to who wants to win more,” Caine said. “Both people are equally tired and clearly, your skill levels are pretty similar. I just told myself I wasn’t going to lose.”
On Sunday, the tournament’s second day, the Yale women moved on to the third place match against third-seeded Penn, a team that defeated Yale 7–2 at the tournament and 8–1 in the regular season last year. Seeking revenge, the Bulldogs quickly took care of their opponent with a 7–2 upset victory.
In the women’s championship, the Crimson lost to Princeton in an upset.
The men’s team entered the championship match against Harvard with a disadvantage, as Caine needed to leave campus for personal reasons on Sunday, and No. 6 McClintock was out because of a back injury.
Dembinski, Martin and Zac Leman ’16 won their matches at numbers two, three and four, respectively. Talbott said that Dembinski’s 3–1 victory over Harvard co-captain Gary Power was particularly impressive.
“Nobody thought [Dembinski] was going to be in that match,” Talbott said. “I think that was the biggest upset of the weekend.”
But Yale, lacking depth without Caine and McClintock, ultimately fell 6–3 to give Harvard the tournament championship.
Caine said that the team outperformed people’s expectations in the match but still has room for improvement before the season begins next month.
“We need to continue to get fitter and stronger,” Caine said. “We’re all always working to get better.”
The Eli men and women will open their seasons at Williams on Dec. 6.