After finishing second in the Ivy League to Harvard last year, the Bulldogs once again came up short against the Cantabs and fell, 6-3, Saturday in Cambridge, Mass.
The teams were evenly matched, entering the weekend with identical records, but the Crimson (9-1, 6-0 Ivy) simply outplayed the Elis (8-2, 5-1) to win their second straight Ivy League title. The Bulldogs were unable to defeat any of Harvard’s top four players, all of whom came into the season ranked in the nation’s individual top 10.
The defeat marked the first conference setback for the Elis. The Bulldogs’ other loss this season came against No. 1 Trinity, which has won that last six national championships.
“Quite obviously the team is disappointed,” captain Gavin Cumberbatch ’05 said. “We had a very realistic chance of taking the Ivy League title and didn’t, but that is behind us and we have to keep on working until the season is officially over.”
Nick Chirls ’07 said that match came down to effort, not talent.
“We really didn’t need to play out of this world to win,” Chirls said. “I do not think they won because they are necessarily a more talented team. They played harder than us yesterday and they deserved the match; we simply could not capitalize.”
All three of Yale’s wins came outside of the top four. Ho Ming Chiu ’08 won 9-5, 9-1, 10-8 at No. 8, and Joseph Samuel ’08 won 10-9, 9-6, 5-9, 9-4 at No. 9. Chirls won his match 9-6, 9-3, 9-10, 9-6 at No. 5, but the victory did not lessen his disappointment.
“I didn’t go to Harvard to win for myself, we went to win as a team,” he said. “I don’t really care much about my win. As a team we didn’t get it done and that is all that matters.”
Perhaps the surprise of the match came at No. 1, where Julian Illingworth ’06 was upset by Harvard’s Siddharth Suchde, 9-7, 9-0, 10-8. Until Saturday, Illingworth had not lost a match all season. A week ago against Princeton, the Yale star defeated two-time defending national champion Yasser El-Halaby to become the consensus best individual player in the country. Although Suchde entered the season as the No. 4 player in the nation, his victory was a major shock.
“I really felt I let the team down with my performance,” Illingworth said. “I played my worst match of the year, and my mental intensity and toughness was terrible.”
Illingworth said that he was especially disappointed with his play in the third game, in which he found his groove and went up 8-1, only drop the next nine points and lose 8-10.
“I thought I had reached a level of experience and poise that I wouldn’t allow this type of meltdown to happen, but I was obviously mistaken,” Illingworth said
Illingworth and the Elis will have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the College Squash Association Team Championships at the end of the month. The tournament will be held in Cambridge, where the Bulldogs anticipate a rematch with their arch-rivals.
“As the No. 3 seed, we will likely face Harvard in the semi-final match,” Cumberbatch said. “As for our morale, the loss [Saturday] hurt us, but we are bigger than any loss and so we’ll pick up the pieces and get it right at the CSA championship.”