Although fourth place at a national tournament sounds like a good result, the finish was disappointing for a men’s squash team that entered the season ranked No. 3 in the country.
The Bulldogs (9-2, 5-1 Ivy) defeated No. 6 Western Ontario, 5-4, in the opening round of the College Squash Association Team Championships Friday, but dropped a semifinal match to No. 2 Harvard, 8-1, on Saturday. The Elis then lost a consolation match against No. 5 Princeton, 6-3, on Sunday to finish fourth.
“We didn’t perform,” Nick Chirls ’07 said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability. It was pretty disappointing. But college squash is so competitive that you can lose to almost anyone if you have a bad day. We had a bad day.”
The Elis began this weekend against Western Ontario, a team they pounded 9-0 on Jan. 21. But in Friday’s match, the Mustangs staged a valiant upset bid, coming within one point of beating the Elis.
“We played really badly against UWO,” Julian Illingworth ’06 said. “[But] we got four of our five wins at the top four positions, which was huge, and unexpected because usually our strength is our lower lineup.”
The narrow victory over UWO seemed to shake the Elis for their semifinal match with Harvard. The last time the two archrivals met earlier this season, Harvard won 6-3. But on Saturday, the Cantabs won 8-1, confirming their Ivy title and denying Yale the satisfaction of payback.
In the wake of this defeat, the Elis fell apart. On Sunday, they lost the consolation match to the Tigers, a team they walloped 8-1 on Jan. 29. Moshe Sarfaty ’08, Nick Chirls ’07 and Max Samuel ’08 provided Yale’s only wins at No. 3, 4, and 8, respectively.
“Personally I believed we could beat Harvard,” Sarfaty said. “The guys played as hard as they could, but the Harvard guys were really strong and they were better than us this year. We were all very disappointed that we didn’t win and this influenced us in the game against Princeton.”
Trinity defeated Harvard 7-2 in Sunday afternoon’s championship match to win the tournament.
Yale’s 2004-2005 season is now officially over, but four Elis — Illingworth, Chirls, Josh Schwartz ’05, and Trevor Rees ’06 — will compete in the CSA Individual Championships in Hanover, N.H. on the weekend of Mar. 4.
Illingworth, who came into the season ranked No. 3 in the nation, has an excellent shot at winning the competition. The Yale star defeated Trinity’s best player, Bernardo Samper, in January, and beat Princeton’s two-time defending individual champion, Yasser El Halaby, during a regular season match at the end of January.
Illingworth’s only regular season loss came against Harvard’s Siddharth Suchde (9-7, 9-0, 10-8) when the teams met on Feb 12. Illingworth beat Suchde in Yale’s lone individual win against Harvard this weekend (9-0, 4-9, 10-8, 9-5), but he lost to El Halaby (9-2, 9-2, 9-4) in the consolation match.
The Bulldogs believe Illingworth will be one of the best players at the tournament.
“Julian can win it,” Chirls said. “If he plays well, he can certainly win the whole thing. A couple of us have a shot at making the Top 20 and becoming All American. We’re all definitely supporting Julian, though.”
After opening the season with a scorching six-game winning streak, the Elis suffered their first defeat of the year on Jan. 26 at the hands of seven-time defending champion Trinity. Yale’s only other loss of the season came against No. 2 Harvard on Feb 12.