For members of the men’s squash team, intra-squad competition for a spot in the top nine can often be as competitive as intercollegiate matches.

Entering the season with a No. 3 national ranking, identical to their finish last season, the Bulldogs are hoping to crack the top two this season. Trinity College, which has won the past three national Intercollegiate Squash Racquets Association titles and 52 matches in a row, is the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship again. This means in order to achieve their goal of finishing second in the nation, the Bulldogs will need to beat No. 2 Harvard, a daunting feat considering the Crimson has swept Yale, 9-0, the past two seasons. With seven of the top eight players returning from last season, the Elis’ challenge matches, in which team members face one another to determine positions, could prove as fierce as the team’s opponents.

Head coach David Talbott, who has coached Yale to a 194-49 record since he arrived in New Haven in 1983, said depth will be his team’s greatest strength this season.

“[The team dynamic] is intense because, although we are a team, we are still competitive internally,” he said. “Once you are in our top nine, our kids are so even.”

Talbott and captain Peter Grote ’02 will have to channel this internal competitiveness toward the rest of the Ivy League and to Trinity if the Bulldogs are to be successful this season. This should not be a problem for Grote, who spent the summer at Marine Officer Candidate Training School and said he would like to enter the corps after he graduates in May.

“I think it’s good for the team,” Grote said. “Everyone is pushing each other, and the more competition you get, the more you can translate that into a match.”

Grote added that 14 Bulldogs have the potential to play in the top nine, with the battles for Nos. 4 through 9 positions particularly tight.

While the Bulldogs’ depth will certainly carry the load this season, the top four players, including No. 1 Anshul Manchanda ’04, must step up from last year if Yale is to accomplish its goal of winning the Ivy League and taking second nationally.

“Our top four is not as strong as the top four in the rest of the league,” Manchanda said. “We definitely have to work on our game.”

Still, the Bulldogs have a great deal of talent at the top. Manchanda and Grote were both second team All-Americans last season and come into this season with NISRA preseason rankings of No. 14 and No. 12, respectively.

“[Our top four] is much more competitive than it was last year,” Grote said. “It’s feasible that we could win any of those spots against Ivy League teams.”

Though the Bulldogs remain a relatively young team — Grote and Joseph Cohen are the only seniors — Talbott said that the team has matured a great deal from last year.

“We beat the heck out of each other [in practice], but at the end of the day we are one team with one goal,” Talbott said.