Apparently all the right things were said in the men’s squash locker room after last Tuesday’s poor showing against Trinity.
The Bulldogs bounced back this weekend and affirmed that the loss in Hartford was nothing more than a hiccup in their resolute march leading up to Princeton and Harvard. At the Yale Round Robin, the Elis (11-2, 2-1 Ivy) made quick work of both Navy and Franklin & Marshall, 9-0, on Saturday, completing their weekend series after a similar 9-0 victory the previous night over Denison.
Navy’s squash program is on the ascent, having recently moved into the CSA top 10, and proved the toughest challenge for the Bulldogs up and down the ladder. Even so, the Midshipmen managed to take only a few games from the Elis before ultimately succumbing to superior finesse and physicality. Captain and No. 1 Nick Chirls ’07 brushed off fellow top American, Tucker George, 9-4, 9-1, 9-3, while No. 2 Max Samuel ’08 and No. 3 Moshe Sarfaty ’08 turned in equally dominating performances at the top of the lineup.
“We’ve made an improvement in our program, but we’re not quite there yet,” said Navy head coach Craig Dawson in reference to his team’s performance against Yale. “They paid us a real compliment today by playing all of their top guys; in years past they haven’t had to do that.”
The Bulldogs had the luxury of resting some of their starters for the second match of the day against Franklin & Marshall, a decision which allowed head coach Dave Talbott to shift the lineup and give starting opportunities to several other players. Most of the Elis had no trouble adjusting to new spots, and the team was particularly overbearing at the bottom of the ladder. Sarfaty, who moved up to No. 2, ran into trouble against Setgavit Seshadri and needed five games to beat the talented Diplomat, 7-9, 9-2, 9-7, 1-9, 9-6.
“We expected to win, and we did well,” Chirls said. “It’s a sharpening thing this weekend because there’s not that much pressure. It’s about going out and practicing the little things.”
Chirls said this week of practice will probably be a relatively easy one for the Bulldogs as they focus on their upcoming match against Princeton.
“We all want to be nice and fresh,” Aaron Fuchs ’10 said, “Everyone is ready and sharp and we’ve been training hard, so we’ll take it easy this week I’m sure.”
The importance of the Tiger match does not have to be spelled out for anyone on the squad. The Bulldogs must run the table in the Ivy League if they hope to win the title, and that means a victory against Princeton on Saturday in the Brady Squash Center and a win against Harvard on Valentine’s Day in Cambridge.
Chirls said he believes his team has worked hard enough to accomplish the difficult feat of beating both Princeton and Harvard in the same season. He said he expects the home court advantage to help with the Elis’ energy level and concentration. Chirls would be remiss, however, not to mention a similar home setting earlier this year when the Penn Quakers came through with a devastating 6-3 upset of the Elis.
“We’re going to need the bottom part of the ladder, five through nine, to really come through for us,” Fuchs said. “Princeton has a great team, and we’re going to need to concentrate on increasing the pace of the game.”
A Yale victory on Saturday could upset the balance of the Ancient Eight and will make the Feb. 11 meeting of the Crimson and the Tigers much more interesting. But all the Bulldogs can do is take care of their own business and hope the rest falls into place.