The men’s squash team faces a crucial stretch of challenges this weekend, playing four matches before the start of next week. The Bulldogs will travel to Williamstown, Mass. Jan. 14 to play Williams, then to Hanover, N.H. Jan. 15 to face the Big Green. The team will return to New Haven for a round-robin tournament Sunday.

“We should dominate this weekend,” Julian Illingworth ’06 said. “Dartmouth has a few good players at the top, which will give our top players a good match, but in the lower lineup we should sweep quite easily.”

Although the nationally-ranked No. 3 Elis have not played a match in six weeks since steamrolling No. 4 University of Pennsylvania, 7-2, in their first match of the season, they have hardly been taking it easy.

The Bulldogs returned to New Haven Jan. 2, following two weeks of individual workouts and exercise regimens at home. The Elis practiced twice a day in New Haven until Jan. 6, then went to New York City for a “tune-up” exhibition tournament before returning to Yale Jan. 9.

Despite the short vacation, the Bulldogs felt the early return was a good way to prepare for the rest of the season.

“That week was very productive as we were able to step up the intensity of the training sessions without any class-related conflicts,” captain Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 said.

All this work is part of an effort to dethrone Harvard from the top Ivy League spot and to claim the national crown from Trinity College.

Last year, the Bulldogs finished second to Harvard in the Ivy League, and trailed only the Cantabs and Bantams in the national rankings. The Elis have finished second in the Ivy League three years in a row.

Harvard looks strong again in 2005, and Trinity has won the National Championship five years in a row — but the Bulldogs are not intimidated.

“[We’re] gearing up for a run at the National Championship,” head coach David Talbott said.

The Elis return a strong cast of seniors for the 2004-2005 season. Cumberbatch, Josh Schwartz ’05, Ranidu Lankage ’05, and Chris Wyant ’05 are joined by a strong contingent of younger players including Illingworth, the third-ranked player in the nation.

In spite of their arduous schedule, the Elis are confident going into this weekend.

Cumberbatch also expressed optimism about this weekend’s games while noting the strength of the opposition.

“There is no doubt in the minds of any of our players that we are the stronger of the teams in each of our weekend matchups. With that said, we have no intentions of underestimating our opponents and will therefore continue to train and prepare for our upcoming matches until we leave for Williams on Friday,” Cumberbatch said.

The captain went on to make a bold prediction.

“By Monday we will have improved our national record from 1-0 to 5-0,” he said.