Very few teams would be happy with a 9-0 loss. But, after such a defeat, the men’s squash team is in good spirits.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-0 Ivy) fell to Trinity (5-0), the top team in the nation, Wednesday. The host Bantams shut out the Bulldogs, posting the 9-0 score they achieved last season. Yet this time the encounter finished on a different note.
Trinity ended up sweeping seven out of nine matches 3-0, extending its record to 40 consecutive wins dating back to 1998. Yet facing a team where eight of nine players in the lineup are internationally ranked juniors, and coming off of a disappointingly close win over Williams, the Bulldogs entered the competition as underdogs with nothing to lose. And indeed they took a lot out of it.
“It was certainly the best that we have played Trinity in four or five years,” head coach David Talbott said. “Their top six players are of professional caliber, but we were tough in every spot and really made them play. This team has slapped us around for the last couple of years, but [captain] Josh [Barenbaum ’01] did a great job of getting the kids to realize how they can play — they are as competitive as they can possibly be.”
Although the Bulldogs failed to come away with a win, their improved play over the No. 1 team in the nation proved their potential for the season.
“It’s good to know we have the ability to turn things around,” Barenbaum said. “This shows that we have a bunch of really talented and mentally capable guys.”
Freshman Albert McCrery took the most impressive performance of the day at the eighth spot, falling to Trinity’s Patrick Malloy by a narrow 3-2 margin. McCrery turned around his 3-0 loss from last season in the process.
Ziad Haider ’03 had another close game at the No. 7 position, forcing his opponent to a four-game match, again improving on a 3-0 loss from last year.
“It was a great match,” Haider said of his team’s overall performance. “There is a lot of pressure going in to play a team like Trinity, and last year there was no fire. This year, right down the ladder, everyone came out really tough.”
At the No. 1 spot, Anshul Manchanda ’04 fell to Jonathan Smith, potentially the toughest collegiate player in the country. But the 3-0 shutout belied how close Manchanda played.
“He [Manchanda] definitely stuck with his opponent all the way,” Haider said. “It would have been easy for us to think that their team has remained unbeatable, but we came back with a whole new attitude.”
This Saturday the men will play three matches, against Ivy foe Cornell, Hobart and Hamilton. Cornell is probably the most-improved team in the league this season, so the Bulldogs will approach with caution. But Yale’s success at an early-season scrimmage bodes well for the Elis.
“We were actually really encouraged by [Wednesday’s] results,” Talbott said. “We want to go up to Cornell and just try to dominate. If we can continue to improve from where we were last night, we have a legitimate chance of winning the Ivy championship.”
The women’s team (3-1, 0-1 Ivy), ranked seventh in the nation, was defeated on Wednesday 8-1 by No. 3 Trinity (3-0).
“We played well — the final tally wasn’t indicative of how we played,” Laura Perciasepe ’04 said. “The level of squash was higher in this match than in any of our other matches.”
Liese Fritze ’01 dominated at the No. 9 position, gaining the only win for the Bulldogs. She defeated Amy Brown 9-2, 10-8, 5-9, 9-7 after trailing 2-7 in the fourth game. Fritze improved from a 3-0 loss to Trinity’s Brown last season.
Yale’s No. 4 player, Abigail McDonough ’04, forced Trinity’s Samantha Lewis, a nationally ranked Zimbabwean player, to a four-game challenge before losing 3-1.
But Trinity, which will definitely compete for the national championship, remains one of the deepest and most talented teams in the nation.
“I am proud of the way everyone played,” head coach Mark Talbott said. “We were still intimidated, but that is all part of the experience, and next time we won’t be.”
Fritze echoed her coach’s sentiments.
“It’s hard to go into a match expecting to lose,” she said. “But we have to make sure that we go in aggressive when we have nothing to lose.”
This Saturday the women will face Hamilton and a Cornell team that is much improved from last season. With a new coach and strong players in their top five, the Bulldogs should expect a close match.