The nationally ranked No. 2 men’s squash team fell short of victory but put up a good fight against No. 1 Trinity last night at the Brady Squash Center. The Bantams quickly pounced on the Elis, winning the first four matches, and created what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.
The second, fourth, sixth, and eighth seeds for the Elis gave a solid effort but fell one by one. Fourth-seeded Gavin Cumberbatch ’05, while facing elimination down two games to none, brought his game to 7-8 before ceding the winning point.
“We stuck to the game plan, but that does not guarantee success,” Cumberbatch said. “We showed a lot of fight. We were outplayed, and I can live with that because we left it all out on the court.”
Despite the rocky start, the Bulldogs seemed poised to comeback. In the premier match-up, which pitted nationally ranked top-five collegiates against each other, Julian Illingworth ’06 won his match against Michael Ferriera 3-0. Illingworth played the controlled, patient style Yale head coach David Talbott felt would give his squad the best chance of winning. Ferriera became frustrated after being down 2-0 in games as the six-foot-one Illingworth stretched to take away what appeared to be winning shots. The Bantams’ composure visibly started to crumble, and he distastefully responded to jeers from the balcony. Illingworth edged closer and closer to victory with the full-house crowd’s cheers crescendoing at match point.
“It’s great to see that kind of energy in the crowd,” Talbott said. “Our guys feed off that.”
Illingworth’s victory preserved a flicker of hope for Yale victory, but the flame was extinguished when Anshul Manchanda ’04 fell in his three-seed match. While a team win was out of the picture, Nick Chirls ’07 and Andrew Vinci ’06 defeated their opponents. Vinci jumped out to an early 2-0 lead but could not put the match away until the fifth and final game.
The Elis were confident they had a genuine chance to defeat Trinity but recognize that the scoreboard does not tell the whole story.
“We lost, but a lot of us know how close it was,” Chirls said. “We can beat them.”
Tenth-year Trinity head coach Paul Assaiante said he felt fortunate to leave New Haven with a victory.
“It’s a 6-3 win that easily could have been a 5-4 loss,” Assaiante said.
According to Talbott, the Bulldogs will use this match as motivation for the rest of the season and to gauge where they need improvement before taking on Ivy League heavyweight and reigning Ivy League champion Princeton Jan. 31.
“We haven’t played our best squash yet,” Talbott said. “We closed the gap a little more, and maybe we’ll get to play them again at the end of the season.”
If the Elis take on Trinity for a second time this year, it will be for the national title.