In their biggest match of the season, the Bulldogs were completely outplayed by No. 2 Princeton.
Three days after nearly upsetting the No. 1 Trinity Bantams, the Tigers swept the Elis, 9-0, on Saturday in New Jersey. Princeton was led by the nation’s top-ranked college squash player, Mauricio Sanchez, who blanked Max Samuel ’08 in the first two matches before Samuel retired because of injury.
“We just didn’t come out and play the way we can,” John Fulham ’11 said. “We had a few bad breaks go our way. It’s always hard playing away matches — their crowd, their courts. We weren’t able to adjust, and we couldn’t quite get it done at a few spots.”
The Princeton squash courts, which are several floors underground, were unusually warm on Saturday. In addition, the match was played with a five-court system, in comparison to the three-court system that the Elis usually use, allowing the Tigers to jump out to a quick 4-0 lead.
“When you play a five-court system, you can’t cheer on your teammates and you don’t have momentum shifts,” Ethan Oetter ’09 said. “Before you know it, after an hour, you’re down 5-0 or 4-0 and the match is over.”
The Bulldogs dropped their first four matches quickly, combining to win only one game. The next four were much closer. At the No. 5 spot, Francis Johnson ’09 beat Hesham El Halaby, the fourth-ranked player in the country, 10-9, in the first game before dropping a heartbreaker, 8-10, in the second. El Halaby took the last two games, 9-2 and 9-5, to take the match in four. El Halaby’s older brother, Yasser, won the individual CSA national championship two years ago.
The Elis will have a shot at redemption on Feb. 15, when college squash teams around the country will vie for the national title in Cambridge, Mass. The tournament will start two days after the Bulldogs’ home match against Harvard.
“If we can just get a few breaks and a few of us can play better, that’s definitely a team that I actually believe we can beat,” Fulham said. “We had a few close matches, especially down the bottom of the ladder, that we couldn’t quite pull off.”
Barring a miracle, the loss most likely means the end of the Bulldogs’ quest for the Ivy League championship. Yale was the biggest obstacle in Princeton’s quest to defend last year’s Ancient Eight title.
“We can’t win the Ivy title now,” Oetter said. “Princeton is too strong for the other teams. We were their best opposition.”
Although the conference championship may be out of reach, the Bulldogs certainly haven’t called it quits.
“The team knows the season isn’t over, and it’s important that when we play Harvard, we send the seniors out on a good note,” Rusty Feldman ’10 said.
The Elis will take on Brown in Providence on Saturday before returning home to play the Crimson.