Last weekend at the U.S. Squash Racquets Association’s National Team Championships in Hartford, Conn., one of Yale’s (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) four five-man teams led by Brian Smith ’01 won the B division competition over eight teams, gaining its first title in a national championship since 1956.
The open tournament was especially difficult because it allowed professionals, city teams and various schools to compete. But Yale’s success there bodes well for this weekend’s competition against Williams, men’s head coach David Talbott said.
The Elis’ performance was especially notable because the B team defeated Williams 4-1 while thrashing Trinity in the final 4-1, despite the absence of two key players, Blake Gilpin ’01 and Anshul Manchanda ’04. The men’s team will face Trinity next Wednesday Jan. 17.
“We spread our players out a lot,” Frederick Bouchardy ’01 said. “The lower teams did well because of our depth. The B-team match against Williams tested their depth especially because it was made up of Williams’ number 6 through 10 players, while our number 6 through 10 players were playing in the A division.”
The winning team included seniors Smith, Alexander Tilney and Kenneth Woo in the top three positions, Terence Li ’04 in position four and sophomore Ted Bailey in position five. Two of Yale’s teams also participated in the A division and were divided to even strength to allow for varied matches. This division was headed by Trinity, and the Bulldogs’ first two teams finished sixth and ninth, respectively. Yale’s fourth team finished in fifth place in the B division.
The USSRA competition has no bearing on college squash rankings. Yet Talbott emphasized its importance.
“The competition can be used as good preparation for the season because it gives the kids an opportunity to play against professionals they wouldn’t otherwise play during the season,” he said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
With such encouraging results, a well-prepared team that has been practicing since Jan. 2 and the return of top-ranking player Chris Olsen ’03, it seems like victory this weekend against Williams is a very attainable goal.
The women’s team (1-1, 0-1 Ivy) returned from winter break to begin its training on Jan. 3 and defeated Williams last Saturday 8-1, only losing a match at their No. 1 position played by captain Catherine Fiederowicz ’01. Yet Williams was not one of the Elis’ tougher opponents and apart from the Purple Cows’ top-seeded player Adrian Ellman, the team was no threat.
“Williams was a good match,” Gina Wilkinson ’03 said. “Everyone played well even after not having played so much over the break.”
Sarah Levine ’01, who sat out two seasons because of a stress fracture to her thigh, finally returned to action Saturday. It was also the first collegiate match for Heather Weymouth ’01, and freshmen Katherine Sims and Laura Perciasepe.
“The most notable performance was Sarah Levine’s match,” women’s head coach Mark Talbott said. “It’s really great to have her back on the team.”
Devon Dalzell ’04 also played strongly, securing victory at 3-0, giving herself hope for the rest of the season.
“Overall our team is getting stronger,” Dalzell said. “We’re progressing as the season goes on and by the end we’re going to be awesome.”
At this weekend’s Williams Invitational the women will face Colby — another team they should dominate — and Bowdoin — a team that could prove to be a tough test. In the past several years, including their 6-3 victory last season, the Bulldogs have beaten Bowdoin — which ranks among the top-10 teams in the country. Bowdoin has significant depth in its top five players, which, along with its top-seeded weapon Dana Betts, could provide an unexpected challenge.
“This weekend we should have some stellar performances to come,” Dalzell said.