Sometimes in sports, whether for better or worse, everything goes as predicted.
That’s how it went for the men’s squash team this weekend at the CSA Team Championships, where the Bulldogs got a chance to flex their muscles on Friday before being overmatched on Saturday and Sunday.
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Yale quickly dispatched Penn in a convincing 7-2 victory on Friday that stood in stark contrast to Penn’s upset win over the Elis in December. Though the Bulldogs came in as the lower seed against Penn because of the early season loss, most correctly predicted that the Elis would have little trouble with the Quakers. The jubilation of Friday night was marred by back-to-back weekend losses to No. 1 Trinity, 8-1, and No. 3 Harvard, 9-0. The Bulldogs’ 1-2 mark on the weekend left them in fourth in the country, exactly where they started the season, though the Bulldogs may have shown more improvement than the rankings suggest.
“I definitely think we’re the most improved team in the Ivy [League],” Moshe Sarfaty ’08 said. “It was a matter of experience for us this year.”
Sunday’s rematch with Harvard, which came just four days after the Elis fell 7-2 in Cambridge, served as a disappointing finale to Yale’s season. This time around, the Bulldogs did not manage to take a single court off the Cantabs and looked sluggish in almost every game. Sarfaty and Bill Hatch ’09 both said they were disappointed that the team wasn’t able to capitalize on home court advantage, and Hatch said he thought the team could have done more.
“[We] ran out of steam,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “There just wasn’t much left in the tank. Harvard is playing with six seniors, and we’re playing with one. They’re a better team than we are right now.”
The Harvard loss arguably stung worse than the loss to Trinity the previous day. The Bantams, who captured their ninth consecutive national championship by beating Princeton on Sunday, looked untouchable all season and certified their regular season dominance this weekend. Like so many teams who have traveled to Hartford to take on Trinity, Yale suffered an embarrassing 9-0 loss in late January. But the Bulldogs came out somewhat more resilient on Saturday. Ethan Oetter ’09, Colin Campbell ’09 and Sarfaty all managed to win one game despite playing up one court due to a leg injury to No. 2 Max Samuel ’08. The high point of the match came when Aaron Fuchs ’10 knocked off Eduardo Pereira 3-2 in an exciting five-game comeback that energized the Saturday afternoon crowd.
“Mentally I was tougher,” Fuchs said. “I didn’t think I would win to be honest.”
Fuchs was the only player all weekend to beat a player from Trinity, and statistically Yale looked much more impressive in their second go-round with the Bantams.
“We came in with a lot of energy from the Penn match,” Hatch said. “They’re a strong team, and we played them well.”
The match against Penn was arguably the highlight of the team’s season. The Elis had fallen to Penn earlier in the season on their home courts, 6-3, but reversed fortunes and demolished the Quakers 7-2, with wins coming from the bottom seven positions in the ladder. The sizeable crowd witnessed an energetic Francis Johnson ’09, looking comfortable in his new No. 3 position, dismantle Penn’s Ben Ende 3-0 in a frenetic display of speed and precision.
“Turning a 6-3 loss into a 7-2 win is huge,” Talbott said. “It shows how hard the team has worked since December.”
Sarfaty said he could see that his team was much better than Penn and said he was happy to get the win for his coach.
The victory against Penn may prove a factor when pre-season ranking come out for the 2007-’08 campaign.
The Bulldogs will have one more chance to represent themselves on the court when they head to Philadelphia next weekend for the CSA Individual Championships. No Yalie is expected to finish in the top five, but the team still expects a good showing.
“There’s not as much pressure [this weekend] because you don’t feel like you have to win for your team,” Fuchs said. “We’re just going to have fun and see what happens.”