In the midst of a three-game winning streak, the men’s squash team looks to do something today it has not done since 1949: beat Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., on Harvard’s squash courts.
And this may be the year. In a warm-up match Sunday, Yale shut out Amherst College 9-0.
The victory over the Lord Jeffs (7-7) in Amherst, Mass., was the third consecutive dominant victory for the Bulldogs (16-2), who have beaten their last three opponents by a combined 28-1 score. But out of contention for the Ivy League championship, the Elis head to Harvard (6-2) to play for pride and a potential rematch with Princeton (9-1) at the national championship tournament this upcoming weekend.
“It was good to have a nice road trip, not too long a road trip, just nice to sort of settle our nerves,” said Yale’s No. 1 position player Julian Illingworth ’06, who defeated Amherst’s Gifford Sommerkamp 9-1, 9-2, 9-4.
Yale dominated the ladder, winning all nine matches in the minimum three games. The most dominant victory came at position No. 6, where Ryan Byrnes ’04 beat Nick Haslett 9-1, 9-0, 9-0.
Today, the Elis face a more formidable opponent.
“We’ve really got to focus on this match,” A.J. McCrery ’04 said. “We’re a stronger team down the line.”
The Cantabs are currently ranked nationally at No. 3, just ahead of the No. 4 Bulldogs. The two teams met Nov. 9 at the Ivy League Scrimmage, with Yale winning 7-2.
“That definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Illingworth said. “Our team is stronger now than it was then.”
But both teams were not at full strength back in the autumn. Yale lacked Byrnes and position No. 3 Avner Geva ’06 because of injuries, and Harvard was also without two top players. And the Crimson also will have homecourt advantage this time.
“I guarantee you the match will be a lot closer than that,” Josh Schwartz ’05 said.
Schwartz, the Elis’ No. 4 position player, is Yale’s biggest question heading into the match. Since January, he has struggled with a hamstring injury since that has prevented him from completing a match in 2003. He retired mid-match against Princeton Feb. 1 because of the injury.
“It’s luckily doing a lot better,” Schwartz said of his hamstring. “I feel a lot better now than I did before Princeton.”
A potential rematch with the Tigers at this weekend’s National Intercollegiate Squash Racquets Association team championship tournament in Princeton, N.J., is a major motivating factor, Illingworth said.
The Elis lost a heartbreaking 5-4 match to the Tigers Feb. 1 at Yale’s Brady Squash Center that knocked the Bulldogs out of contention for sole possession of the Ivy League championship.
“We have managed to refocus,” Schwartz said. “Everyone knows that if we beat Harvard, we get to play Princeton this Saturday at the nationals.”
A win today would give Yale a No. 3 tournament seeding, potentially setting up a rematch with the No. 2-seeded Tigers in the semifinal round.
But before that matchup materializes, Yale must defy over a half century of history by taking down the Crimson today at Harvard’s Murr Center.