HARTFORD — The men’s squash team’s winning streak came to an abrupt end last night.
After opening the season 5-0, the No. 3 Elis lost to six-time defending national champion Trinity in Hartford by a score of 8-1. The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0 Ivy), who came into last night’s match ranked third in the nation, remain undefeated in Ivy League play.
Last season, the Elis came painfully close to dealing Trinity (5-0) its first loss of the millennium, losing 6-3. But last night, the No. 1 Bantams — who have won 113 consecutive matches dating back to the 1997-1998 season — proved to be tough as ever.
“We thought we were better than we were last year,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “But Trinity hasn’t dropped off at all. They beat us up good.”
The lone bright spot of the evening for the Bulldogs was Julian Illingworth ’06, the No. 3 player in the nation. He defeated Bantam star Bernardo “El Matador” Samper in a grueling match, edging out a 3-2 win.
In addition to facing Trinity’s best player, Illingworth battled hecklers and fatigue throughout the match. Hundreds of Bantam fans crammed into the Ferris Athletic Center to cheer on their team and harass the visitors, shouting derisive chants of ‘Julie-boy’ and assorted obscenities at Yale’s No. 1 player.
Evoking memories of Curt Schilling in last year’s MLB postseason, Illingworth played with a bloody knee that had to be bandaged in the middle of the match. After winning the first two games (9-5, 9-5), Illingworth lost the next two (3-9, 0-9) before coming back to win the final game (9-3).
“I got pretty tired halfway through the second game, and I was lucky to get out of that one with a win,” Illingworth said. “After that, I tried to play the third game, but I just fell apart. When I lost the first three points in the fourth game, I sort of tanked it and tried to save my energy for the last match because I knew I would step up when my back was against the wall.”
The only other Bulldogs to win games against the Bantams were Max Samuel ’08, Trevor Rees ’06 and Ho Ming Chiu ’08, all of whom lost their matches 3-1. The Elis did pull out victories in slots 11-13, but those matches are not officially scored.
“We’re only human, and we can be beaten,” captain Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 said. “I guess winning 11, 12 and 13 was a nice consolation, though.”
The Bulldogs will have a chance to redeem themselves and maintain their undefeated Ivy League record when they face No. 7 Princeton this Saturday at the Brady Squash Center.
The Elis then face Denison and Brown before going to Cambridge on Feb. 12 for “The Match.” Yale will try to take the Ivy crown from its arch-nemesis after Harvard won the championship last year. The Cantabs are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, just one spot above the Elis.
“The Harvard game is coming up in a few weeks, so we’ve got some work to do,” Cumberbatch said.
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