The nationally ranked No. 2 men’s squash team stumbled out of the gates and could not make up an early deficit to rival No. 3 Harvard Saturday at the Brady Squash Center. The Elis’ even seeds were swept in the first round of matches en route to a 2-7 loss in the contest for the Ivy League title.
In front of a capacity crowd that included Yale squash alumni, the energetic Bulldogs (8-2, 4-1 Ivy) took the courts. The excitement quickly turned to exhaustion and demoralization.
“I’m disappointed in the outcome,” Captain Ryan Byrnes ’04 said. “We just didn’t play well, and that’s about it.”
On the main exhibition court, in a match that set tone for the day, two-seed Anshul Manchanda ’04 promptly found himself facing defeat, down 0-2 in games. Manchanda fought hard in the final frame, sticking with his opponent Siddharth Suche point for point, but gave up the game’s final points to fall 8-10.
The Elis did not fare better in the first slate’s other matches. Four-seed Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 secured the first game of his match 9-5, but the tide turned in the second game. Harvard’s James Bullock won a grueling 9-6 game and swept the third and fourth games.
Andrew Vinci ’06 fared the best of the even seeds, as his match went the full five games. Vinci was battling from behind for the majority of the match but kept pace with a bigger opponent who controlled the middle of the court.
“I took whatever I could get,” Vinci said. “[Asher Hochberg] wore me down, and it is hard to volley tired.”
The demise of the even seeds put the remainder of the Bulldogs too far behind to catch up. The number nine match sealed the championship for the Crimson, stunning the Elis. Byrnes fell 0-3, and the Crimson had the five matches necessary for a team victory only two hours after the teams were introduced.
The Bulldogs did muster two wins. Trevor Rees ’06 dispatched his Cantab foe with ease. Rees won the first two games 9-3 and secured victory with a 9-7 score in the third. The second Eli win came on Nicholas Brady Exhibition Court in front of a crowd large enough to attract the attention of the fire marshal. Julian Illingworth ’06 continued his domination of all people not named El Halaby, much to the satisfaction of the spectators donning his trademark teal headband.
The Bulldogs’ disappointing performance could be attributed in part to pressure, but head coach David Talbott said his team will make no excuses. Yale played out of character, trying to win points early and forcing shots. The even seeds’ lack of success caused the Elis playing in the second set of matches to lose composure, Talbott said.
“It’s tough to win after the match is done,” Talbott said. “We were a bit embarrassed. We’re a better team than the way we played.”
While the Eli squad was upset, it is already looking forward to its rematch with the Crimson at the National Championships in two weeks. In addition to more practice time, the Bulldogs should have the services of regular four-seed Avner Geva ’06 for the championships. Geva has been unable to play due to a back injury.
When these two squads meet again, the weight of a No. 2 ranking will not be on the Elis’ shoulders, and they will be the underdogs.
“There [will] not be as much nerves next time, and [we’ll] have nothing to lose,” Rees said.
Talbott will get to shuffle seedings against Brown and Amherst Feb. 17 and 21. These two tests, along with intra-team scrimmages, should help him finalize a more successful lineup for the National Championships, held the weekend of Feb. 27.
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