Yale men’s squash rocketed to the pinnacle of the squash world, yet the historic season nearly died just hours after the first serve. The Bulldogs had to battle back from a 4-2 deficit to vanquish an unexpectedly pesky Penn squad in the season opener, and they vowed to use the early scare only as a springboard for the future.

And spring they did. With a flurry of 9-0 blowout victories coupled with a most improbable night in Princeton, the Elis would hoist their first Ancient Eight title trophy since 1990.

In his final collegiate season, Brady Squash Center legend Julian Illingsworth ’06 led Dave Talbott’s boys, compiling a dominant 12-2 individual record on the year. He was one of five seniors who gave the Bulldogs a decidedly veteran feel, and the experience came in handy when the then 7-0 team hit their most perilous stretch at the end of January.

For the eighth straight year, Yale would not be the program that would halt Trinity’s unprecedented 138-game winning streak after a Jan. 25 loss. But an Ivy League title had been the goal all along, though a victory against a powerhouse Princeton in the Garden State the next weekend seemed all but impossible.

Yet after five sweltering hours in the Tigers’ dungeon-like abode, Andrew Vinci ’06 notched the final point of the deciding game and was swarmed by the entire Yale team that had made the 10-foot leap from the viewing gallery onto the sunken court.

The team came up short for a victory in the finale over Harvard would have made the title outright, but a three-way Big Three title still marks their strongest finish in nearly two decades.

And for Illingworth, his tenure in New Haven ended in glory. After falling in the CSA quarterfinals to Trinity’s Gustav Detter on Mar. 4, he came back yesterday by claiming the US National singles title on his home court.

With sophomore bruisers Moshe Sarfaty ’08 and Ho Ming Chiu ’08 leading the way and freshman standout Francis Johnson ’09 not far behind, the future looks bright for the program.