Going up against the nation’s best at this weekend’s National Five-Man Tournament, Yale squash players caught a glimpse of the competition they will face during the rest of the regular season. And although Yale came up short against its top rivals, Bulldog players said they were not discouraged.
“It was fun playing out there,” said Aftab Mathur ’03, who played in the third position on Yale’s first team.
Yale, which normally competes as a unit of nine players, was split into three teams of five. The Bulldogs’ first team took sixth, the second team followed close behind in seventh, and the third team finished a respectable 12th in a field of 24 college and club teams.
Ahead of Yale I were No. 1 Trinity, No. 4 Princeton, and No. 2 Harvard, along with two club teams. Despite losing to the two Ivy rivals, coaches and players alike said they were satisfied with the first team’s finish, as well as the effort of the entire team as a whole.
“We were happy with the weekend,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “We got a good balance of competition and we were happy with that.”
Anshul Manchanda ’04 led Yale I to an encouraging early victory against Harvard’s second team, 5-0. The Elis sent out a relatively young lineup for their top team as Ryan Byrnes ’04, Joshua Schwartz ’05 and Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 joined Manchanda and veteran Mathur on Yale I.
The team dropped to the consolation bracket, however, losing to the Harvard Club 3-2, a team composed of four professionals and only one amateur. The Bulldogs proceeded to defeat No. 5 Williams’ first team before being swept by Harvard’s first team, 5-0, after Manchanda pulled out with a blister.
“We finished kind of where we were expected to, but we didn’t give Harvard too much competition,” Byrnes said of the final match.
Byrnes said he was disappointed with the first team’s performance and suggested that Yale might have more work ahead of it in order to achieve its goal of finishing second in the nation.
But others pointed to fatigue as well as the loss of Manchanda as explaining the team’s sub-par match against Harvard.
“We burned out [at the end of the tournament],” said Mathur. “We will give them a good fight [in the regular season].”
Yale players said that they had wanted to use the tournament, hosted by Trinity in Hartford, to make a statement to other college teams. Despite Yale’s increased strength, questions remained as to whether Yale’s top players could compete with those of other teams.
“We wanted to show [other college teams] that we have gotten better, and that we are also pretty strong near the top,” said Mathur. “We showed them that we are not going to just rely on our bottom four [this season].”
Mathur’s assessment notwithstanding, the performances of Yale’s second and third teams are evidence that relying on the bottom four might not be such a bad thing. Talbott praised Yale II, citing its 3-2 victory of Princeton’s second team.
“Our teams were pretty well balanced,” he said.
Talbott said his players will try to improve their conditioning individually over Christmas break before returning to campus Jan. 3. The Bulldogs will travel to San Francisco to take on No. 22 Stanford and No. 23 Berkeley Jan. 10.