Classes may have ended on Friday, but the men’s squash team is just getting started.

In their first match of the season, the Elis, ranked third in the nation, crushed No. 4 Penn, 7-2, Saturday at the Brady Squash Center.

The Bulldogs were thrilled to open the 2004-05 campaign with a decisive victory over a much-improved Quaker team.

“This Penn team was clearly the strongest they have fielded in my four years at Yale,” captain Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 said. “It was great to take them on, right out of the chute, and make a convincing statement about our bid for national and Ivy League titles.”

The Bulldogs played solidly throughout the lineup, winning seven of the nine individual matches. Julian Illingworth ’06, the third-ranked player in the nation, only lost six points in his 3-0 victory (9-1, 9-4, 9-1) over Penn’s Gilly Lane.

“We knew they were really fired up to get at us because this is the first time in a while that they had a team really capable of competing with us,” Illingworth said. “As a whole we did well to match their energy, and we knew we were the stronger and more skilled team.”

The Elis’ bottom six played with the intensity of twelve, winning all six of their matches. The Bulldogs received particularly strong performances from Moshe Sarfaty ’08 and Ho Ming Chiu ’08. Sarfaty, playing at No. 4, won his match, 5-9, 9-6, 9-1, 9-4, while Chiu played at No. 6 and prevailed, 9-7, 9-3, 9-3.

“Our two best performances were from two of our freshmen, Moshe and Ho Ming,” Illingworth said. “Both got their college careers off to a good start with wins at the four and six positions, which should give them confidence going into the season.”

Josh Schwartz ’05, who had missed time due to injury, was back in the lineup on Saturday. Playing at No. 2, Schwartz fell in five games (9-3, 1-9, 0-9, 9-5, 9-4) in a heated match against Penn’s Rich Repetto.

“Recovering from an injury, Josh played a great match at the number two position and looks strong for the rest of the season,” Cumberbatch said. “Across the board it was a great team performance and the guys are ready to get back to work.”

The Elis are expected to contend for both an Ivy League and a national title this season, although they will face steep competition over the course of the winter. The Bulldogs will have to overcome No. 2 Harvard for the Ivy League crown, and No. 1 Trinity has not lost a match in over five years.

Despite the difficult path ahead of the Elis, Yale head coach David Talbott is optimistic.

“Our team goals are to win the Ivy League and a national championship, nothing less,” Talbott said. “We have enough talent, we just need to maximize.”

Illingworth stressed the importance of the Harvard match.

“Our outlook for this season is really just that we are setting up our entire season for our dual match with Harvard February 12,” Illingworth said. “This match will almost certainly determine the Ivy title, and I will not consider our season to be a success unless we win that match.”

The Elis return to action Jan. 14 against Williams in Williamstown, Mass.