How many Yale varsity teams can say that they are one of the top three teams in the country?
After three straight years of fourth-place finishes at the CSA National Championships, the men’s squash team took down Penn and Harvard to secure the No. 3 national ranking, capping off an impressive season in convincing fashion.
“Third in the country,” Aaron Fuchs ’10 said. “To be honest with you, it feels a lot better than being in the top four. People always say top three schools, they never say top four. It’s a whole different bracket.”
In addition to the top three finish, the Elis also managed to accomplish something that no Yale squash team has done in nearly two decades: beat Harvard twice in the same season. Four days after dominating the Crimson 7-2 in New Haven for second place in the Ivy League, the Bulldogs took down Harvard 6-3 in front of a hostile Cantab home crowd to finish No. 3 in the country.
“It’s a great achievement,” captain Moshe Sarfaty ’08 said. “Especially for the seniors — I haven’t beaten Harvard before this season and after not beating them for four years it was great to beat them twice.”
Sarfaty ranked the Elis’ victories over Harvard as one of his biggest accomplishments on the squash team, second only to the Bulldogs winning the Ivy League championship in 2006. In addition to Yale’s success as a whole, Sarfaty also had a lot to be proud of as a player. After blanking his opponent 3-0 in the first Harvard-Yale showdown, the Israeli native battled to win a hard-fought five game contest. Sarfaty eventually prevailed in dramatic fashion, winning the last game 10-8 to seal the victory.
In addition to taking down Harvard twice, the Elis also defeated Penn for the second time this season. In the first round of the CSA National Championships, the Bulldogs put away the Quakers 7-2, starting off the weekend on a positive note. Earlier in the year, the Elis barely edged Penn 5-4, as the match was only decided after Bill Hatch ’09 pulled out an impressive 3-2 victory at the No. 9 spot.
The Elis’ penchant for five-game wins was on display again on Saturday: the Bulldogs won 3-2 at three different spots to walk away with the 7-2 victory.
“We really smoked Penn and Harvard twice this year which is really nice,” Todd Ruth ’10 said. “Princeton was pretty tough though.”
Although the Elis managed to post repeat victories over the Quakers and the Crimson, they could not avenge an earlier 9-0 defeat to Princeton. In the semifinal round, the Bulldogs took two games off of the Tigers but still fell 7-2, eliminating them from title contention.
Princeton ending up bowing out to Trinity 8-1 in the final round, giving the Bantams their 10th consecutive national championship and extending the nation’s longest collegiate winning streak to 183 games.
Although the Elis were unable to take down Princeton, there was plenty to be happy about. Most importantly, Naishadh Lalwani ’11 continued his recent hot streak by winning his fourth straight match at the No. 9 spot. After posting his first Ivy League victory on Feb. 10 against Brown, Lalwani has been on fire. In his last four matches, the freshman has yet to lose a game, posting a perfect 12-0 record. With fellow freshmen John Fulham ’11, C.J. Plimpton ’11 and Michael Marcua ’11 also making important contributions, the Bulldogs seem to have a bright future ahead of them.
“It was a really strong season for us and it’s good to finish in the third seed heading into next season,” Fulham said. “We are losing a really strong group of seniors though.”
Although the Bulldogs will be losing three of their top nine players, the Elis would be hard-pressed to give graduating seniors Max Samuel ’08, Ho Ming Chiu ’08 and Sarfaty a better parting gift. After all, the only thing better than beating Harvard is beating Harvard twice.
“I love this group — they’re all like my brothers and coach [Dave Talbott] is like my father,” Sarfaty said. “On behalf of all the seniors, we want to thank the whole team for being such good friends with us for four years. We are so proud of Yale squash and we have really done our best.”