27 up, 27 down.
The business-like Elis made startlingly quick work dispatching three visitors while graciously opening up the Brady Squash Center to seemingly half of the collegiate squash world for the Yale Round Robin tournament this weekend. Although the men’s squash team (7-0, 3-0 Ivy) kept its perfect Ivy season going with a Saturday win over Cornell sandwiched between two non-league triumphs, the looming showdown with Trinity was in the back of every mind down on the courts.
The three-day annual event held at Payne Whitney welcomed over a dozen men’s and women’s teams to New Haven, ranging from powerhouses such as Trinity and the host Bulldogs to upstart programs such as Stanford. The Cardinal was the first victim on Friday afternoon, not even mustering a single win in the 9-0 shutout. The Big Red (1-6, 0-4) fared little better Saturday, and even with a few Yale starters resting, Bates (2-2) hardly made a peep in the finale yesterday.
Yale head coach Dave Talbott said that more than anything, events such as the one held this weekend solidify Yale’s important role in the promotion of the sport.
“Having events like this are just great,” he said. “We have the best facilities in the world here, and we’re running six national tournaments this year alone. Yale has really become the center of squash in the United States.”
While the matches against Stanford and Bates were purely exhibition, the Cornell game had a little more significance as it was against an Ivy League opponent — and one who had beaten Princeton last winter. Talbott had predicted beforehand that the Big Red would put up a good fight.
“This is a team that has seven seniors in the top nine,” he said. “You know they’re a solid program and would put up a solid threat.”
But with little exception, the Elis’ 9-0 victory ended up being a breeze and finished with a dazzling display by captain Julian Illingworth ’06 on the main exhibition court. In a match that seemed to last mere minutes, Illingworth stunned helpless Cornell No. 1 Matt Serediak with three straight 9-0 sets to cap his team’s shutout performance.
“We played well, pretty much up to our potential,” Illingworth said. “We came out with a lot of intensity and are looking good for Wednesday.”
Perhaps the most exciting match of Saturday was at the No. 3 spot, where Bulldog Ho Ming Chiu ’08, playing in the highest position of his career, came back from a 2-1 deficit to edge the Big Red’s Matt Greenberg in five sets.
“Ho Ming struggled a little bit at number three, but he looked good all week in practices,” Talbott said. “There was a big drop-off at Cornell’s number four and five spots, and we wanted to play him up high.”
Illingworth said his teammate just needed a little time to get into a groove.
“It’s a big step for him, after playing at six and seven for most of last year,” he said. “Once he got in and got comfortable, he was able to figure his opponent out.”
Yesterday’s match against Bates was another abrupt beating, but by then almost all the focus seemed to be directed squarely at Wednesday night.
“More than anything, today is a warm-up,” said Avner Geva ’06, who had started at No. 4. “It’s a nice set of wins, but it was not really a big match.”
Talbott said he was pleased with the weekend, both as a worthwhile tune-up opportunity for his team and a big event to raise the profile of the program and the University.
“This is a great weekend for Yale,” he said. “And the hotels and restaurants are packed, so it’s a great thing for New Haven too.”