For a hungry squad that had not seen action in nine months, the No. 4 men’s squash team’s (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) inaugural tour of the Keystone State last weekend seemed ripe for a few blowouts. Instead, the men’s squash team encountered equally ravenous Quakers and barely escaped Philadelphia unscathed, retreating west to the heart of Amish Country and some easier foes at Franklin and Marshall.
Penn (2-2, 2-1) had the Bulldogs on the ropes for much of Saturday’s match at Ringe Courts, and it took some late heroics by Andrew Vinci ’06 and Ho Ming Chiu ’08 in the final two matches to seal the 5-4 comeback victory. The night game that pitted Yale against the Diplomats in Lancaster, Penn. was a breeze, with the visiting Bulldogs romping to a 9-0 shutout.
When the Elis last squared off against Penn in January at Payne Whitney, they pounded the Quakers in an 8-1 final. Many of the players said they expected the favored Bulldogs to coast comfortably, if not duplicate the outcome, in Saturday’s rematch.
“Going into the match after playing well at the Ivy Scrimmage, I don’t think the guys thought the match would be so close,” said Alex Tilton ’06, who played in the eighth position.
Yale lost four of its first five decisions, and Penn only needed to snag one win in the four remaining games to nail down the upset. Elis Samuel Joseph ’08 and Trevor Rees ’07, playing in the fifth and sixth spots, respectively, fell in three games, while Moshe Safarty ’06 and Alex Tilton ’06 both lost heartbreakers that went down to the wire in deciding fifth games.
“They came out fired up on their own court,” Vinci said. “A couple of our strongest players were not having their strongest days, but there was never overall panic. At 4-1, we had a collective feeling that we just needed to get our act together.
The Elis rallied to a 4-3 tally after 2005 Singles national champion Julian Illingworth ’06 and second-seeded Nick Chirls ’07 emerged triumphant, and focus turned to the two remaining games going into their final sets, where Vinci faced Penn’s Will Simonton and Chiu was battling Spencer Kurn. Vinci would finish off his opponent first, and the raucous crowd ringed the court where they awaited the outcome of the entire day.
“The big, rowdy crowd they had was intimidating and very noisy in between points,” Tilton said. “But ultimately, it made it that much more satisfying when Ho Ming won the final match.”
Chiu sent the Quakers packing when he won his final game, 9-6, for the 3-2 victory, but there was little time to celebrate for the Bulldogs, who boarded a bus for their nightcap against Franklin and Marshall.
The Diplomats were a nice change of scenery for Yale, who dispatched each individual opponent in the minimal three games in all matches but one.
“[Franklin and Marshall] has a program with a lot of history, but they don’t have that strong of a team this year,” Vinci said. “It was hard to get up for that match, but in the end a lot of fun to go down there.”
The USSRA five-man team tournament comes to New Haven this weekend, but after the event, which has no bearing on league standings, the Elis will be inactive until Jan. 14 when Dartmouth comes to town. In the meantime, Illingworth heads to Pakistan this week for an international competition, then both the men’s and women’s squads will travel to England over winter break to play in exhibition games against programs there.
Despite the Penn game being a little bit closer than some Elis had expected, Tilton sees it as a good springboard to kick off the 2005-06 season.
“This was the biggest comeback in my four years and hopefully we can use it as momentum in preparing for the rest of the season,” he said.