Coming off a busy weekend, the men’s squash team starts its push for the Ivy League Championship on Saturday.
After seven matches over the course of Saturday and Sunday, the Bulldogs host a tough Princeton team, nationally ranked No. 2 and led by the nationally ranked No. 1 player.
The Elis hope to maintain the momentum they built last weekend, when they hosted seven teams. Yale dominated its competition, defeating Colby College, Franklin and Marshall, the Naval Academy, Wesleyan University, Bates College, Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Yale beat each opponent 9-0.
“We definitely know that we were the strongest team,” captain Ziad Haider ’03 said. “Everyone across the board played really well. I think we made as much us out of the weekend as we could.”
Despite an early season loss to the Tigers and an injury to Josh Schwartz ’05, the Bulldogs are looking for the win.
“I’m very confident that we can win this,” Haider said. “We want to win this across the board, as many matches as we can.” The Tigers come to the Brady Squash Center with hopes of repeating their early season success against Yale.
On Nov. 9, Princeton (3-0) narrowly beat the Bulldogs (4-1) 5-4 at the Ivy League Scrimmage, capturing the team title for the tournament.
“That was early in the season,” Schwartz said. “We think we’re playing a lot better.”
The Elis will be stronger this time, with Ryan Byrnes ’04 and Avner Geva ’06 in the lineup, both of whom missed the scrimmage in November. Geva will play at the No. 3 spot, and his presence makes victory that much more of a realistic goal, said Julian Illingworth ’06, Yale’s No. 1 spot.
The match of the day will be the showdown between the No. 1 ranked player in the country, Princeton freshman Yasser El Halaby and Illingworth, Yale’s own freshman phenom.
“That’s going to be a really hard match,” Schwartz said.
Illingworth and El Halaby met in the Ivy League Scrimmage, with El Halaby coming back from a 0-2 deficit and winning 6-9, 0-9, 9-1, 9-1, 9-6.
“I just want to make it close again and hopefully take the victory this time,” Illingworth said.
The biggest question for the Bulldogs heading into the weekend is Schwartz, who has played consistently at the No. 3 spot but has recently been held back by a hamstring injury. If he competes this weekend, Schwartz most likely will fill a spot lower on Yale’s ladder.
“If he doesn’t play against Princeton, our chances diminish tremendously,” head coach Dave Talbott said.
Schwartz began doing drills yesterday, but did not go through a full practice, he said.
“I can’t really play yet,” Schwartz said. “No matter what, I’m playing — I probably won’t be 100 percent.”
Aside from Schwartz, the Bulldogs will need strong efforts at all nine spots in the lineup.
“Everyone has to play to their potential,” Haider said.