The men’s squash team regained its winning form, rebounding from a 3-6 loss to Trinity last Wednesday to knock off No. 16 Navy (13-8) and No. 7 University of Pennsylvania (5-4, 1-2 Ivy) over the weekend. The Elis traveled to Annapolis Saturday and dealt the Midshipmen an 8-1 defeat.
On Sunday, the Bulldogs (7-1, 3-0) preserved its perfect Ivy League record, dispatching the Quakers 8-1 in a match that was scheduled for Dec. 6 but was postponed due to inclement weather. Penn jumped on Yale early in the match, but the men in blue turned the tide after dropping some early points. Six Elis won their matches 3-0. The lone loss came in the number four spot, as Trevor Rees ’06 won the first game but could not pull out another win. Rees normally plays in the six spot.
“It was real important to be together and get two good wins,” Andrew Vinci ’06 said. “Everyone got a good match.”
The Elis’ next contest will be at No. 4 Princeton (3-0, 2-0) Jan. 31. The Bulldogs defeated Princeton 6-3 in the November Ivy scrimmages without the services of two seed Josh Schwartz ’05 and five seed Nick Chirls ’07. The squad will be fully loaded, as will the usually cold confines of the Jadwin Squash Courts. Princeton is hosting its squash alumni weekend concurrently with the match. The teams’ last three meetings have all resulted in high drama 5-4 matches. With all the hype surrounding the contest, the Elis have remained cautiously optimistic.
“We will play a lot better than we did at the scrimmage,” Vinci said. “But it’s always tough to go into [Jadwin] and pull out a win.”
The largest individual spectacle of the match will be the showdown between the two number one seeds, which will determine the number one player in the nation. Julian Illingworth ’06 will get a second shot at nationally ranked No. 1 Yasser El Halaby. Last year, El Halaby mounted one of the most improbable of comebacks, which Yale head coach David Talbott described as “one of the best college squash matches anyone is ever going to see.”
Illingworth had serve for match point up 2-0 in games with Yale and Princeton tied overall four matches apiece. El Halaby battled back from 8-4 to win the third game 10-8 and capitalized on the momentum shift to win the following two games, stealing the spotlight and the victory from the Elis.
Illingworth enters the match coming off a schooling of Trinity’s Michael Ferriera, the third best player in the nation. Illingworth has yet to drop a game this season, and the first team All-American has had great fortune in redemption matches this year, defeating the cream of Cornell and Dartmouth’s crop in his second chance.
“I feel confident,” Illingworth said. “I’ve become a lot stronger and can take the ball earlier. I just have to stay focused and not listen to what [the crowd] says.”
This year’s Tigers should not be as intimidating as the team that swiped victory from the Bulldogs’ clutch. Princeton graduated four seniors who provided victories in the two through five spots in last year’s match. Another advantage for the Elis is a healthy Schwartz and Avner Geva ’06. Schwartz was forced to play the number three match with an injured hamstring last year and lost 3-0. Geva, playing through the pain of a tweaked back, was also swept.
If the Elis prevail in New Jersey, they will be two matches away from claiming the Ivy crown and a likely berth in the NCAA Championship. A home match against No. 3 Harvard (2-0, 2-0 Ivy) Feb. 14 will be the toughest match left on the Bulldogs’ slate.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”18459″ ]