The Yale men’s swimming team could probably have thought of a better way to begin their league season.

The Bulldogs began their league season Saturday with a pair of close losses in a tri-meet with Cornell and Navy. The Elis (1-3, 0-2 EISL) fell 136-107 to the Midshipmen (3-2, 3-2), and lost by an even narrower margin to the Big Red (5-2, 4-2), 126-117.

Of the Bulldogs’ three losses, two have come by 10 points or less.

“Yeah, we’re disappointed, but it’s more,” captain Dave Lange ’05 said. “It’s the first time we’ve lost to those teams in the four years the seniors have been here. We swam OK, some guys swam well, but they out-swam us. It’s a sign of how much more competitive the league is getting.”

Quinn Fitzgerald ’05 led the Elis with two wins, the 200- and 400-meter freestyles. The only other Yale event winner was Ben Dzialo ’07 in the 200-meter butterfly.

The distance events were the Bulldogs’ greatest strength Saturday, with the Elis placing at least two swimmers in the top five in all freestyle events of 200-meters or longer. Andrew Foss ’07 finished right behind Fitzgerald in both the 200- and 400-meter freestyles, and Kent Garber ’07 and Mark Fisher ’07 took second and third in the 800-meter freestyle.

But the sprints would prove to be the Elis’ downfall. Kieran Locke ’06 was the top Yale finisher in both the 50- and 100-meter freestyles, placing fifth and third, respectively. The next Bulldog finishers placed seventh in the 50-meter and eighth in the 100-meter.

The 200-meter breaststroke also suffered from the absences of Colin Stalnecker ’08, who is out with mono, and Cameron Hendrick ’06, who is suffering from a shoulder injury. Robert Schotter ’05 led the Elis with a fifth-place finish, as both Navy and Cornell finished with two swimmers in the top four.

Finally, the 3-meter diving competition spelled trouble for the freshman trio of divers. Doug Scott ’08 placed second in the 1-meter competiton, but his sixth-place performance in the 3-meter was the best finish the Bulldogs could muster in the event, behind four Midshipmen and one Big Red diver.

Several swimmers said a big factor in the meet’s outcome was that many of the swimmers had never swam in a league meet before.

“We rely on freshmen and sophomores,” Lange said. “For some of them, it was their first league experience, and they might have had a lot of things in their heads.”

But despite the easy excuses, the team is asserting that the fault lies with them.

“I don’t think anyone’s making excuses,” Foss said. “We knew we were really close, we just didn’t get the job done. We know we’re better than how we swam, we just have to go out and get the job done.”

The Bulldogs travel to nearby Fairfield next Friday before hosting an important league tri-meet with Dartmouth and Penn next weekend. Neither team has had a strong season up to now, with both the Big Green (0-5, 0-5) and the Quakers (1-4, 0-4) yet to register a league win. But the Bulldogs are fully aware that they must come to the pool this weekend wanting to win.

“If we can take anything from this weekend, it’s that we have to fight every battle, come out swimming from the relay at the beginning to the relay at the end,” Geof Zann ’07 said. “Hopefully the home crowd and the intensity will carry us through.”