In what head coach David Talbott initially called a “transition season,” the Yale men’s squash team has managed to defy many expectations by ending the regular season ranked third in the country.
Much of that success can be attributed to dominant performances by the three freshmen in the middle of the Bulldogs’ ladder — No. 4 Thomas Dembinski ’17, No. 5 Kah Wah Cheong ’17 and No. 6 Liam McClintock ’17. The newcomers have amassed a 31–1 combined record this year, with the only loss coming in the first match of the season when Cheong was playing at the top of the ladder. With the CSA Team Championships just three days away, the News sat down with Dembinski to discuss his first year as a Bulldog.
Q. What has it been like to be such a successful contributor in your first year?
A. It’s definitely nice to come in and immediately make an impact. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to play so high or have such a successful year, but to do both has been shocking to me in a good way.
Q. How has the chemistry been among you, Cheong and McClintock?
A. It’s been great. We’ve all been super supportive of each other, especially for the latter part of the year when we played four, five and six and shared a court. That was essentially the freshman court, and we held it down.
Q. Do you and the other freshmen feel any extra pressure from being pretty much expected, at this point, to sweep the four through six spots?
A. No, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of managing expectations. We all have our personal expectation that we can win any match, but we also know that if we lose there are still eight other guys fighting to win, so we don’t feel too much pressure.
Q. How do you improve on a perfect season in the years to come?
A. It’s not a perfect season yet, since we still have nationals this weekend. But obviously a perfect regular season is tough to beat, but I’ll try to replicate that for the next three years.
Q. Your match against Harvard’s Gary Power was a bit heated. What caused that, and do you think that will make an impact on the match if you play him again this weekend?
A. I definitely think it would. We played earlier in the Ivy scrimmages as well, and it was a similarly contentious match. We grew up playing at the same club, and he was always three years older than me, so we never played with each other. I think it was tough for him to deal with a tight match against someone he used to beat so easily.
Q. What does the strength of the freshman class show about the team’s potential in the future?
A. We obviously have some strong players in the junior and senior classes, but with five of the top six being freshmen and sophomores, that definitely bodes really well for the future of the team. We also have a really good recruiting class coming in next year.
Q. What’s the team’s mentality as it heads into CSA’s next weekend?
A. We’re the third seed, so we’d love to at least fulfill that expectation. We know we had a 5–4 loss to Trinity, and they’re the two seed. If we make it by the first round, which will be a tough match, we’d definitely love to beat Trinity. And I think that if we make it to the finals, we could find two more matches against Harvard to win.
Q. Being from around New Haven, did you always have Yale in your mind?
A. I’ve always dreamed of wearing blue. I started coming to the matches when I was around 10.