For the No. 3 men’s squash team, three seems to be a lucky number. In their season opener last Saturday against Penn, Yale triumphed over the Quakers, 8-1, with six of the nine matches decided in straight sets, 3-0.
“We didn’t want Penn to think they had a shot,” captain Ethan Oetter ’09 said.
The first five matches of the day were decided in straight sets; no player allowed more than 14 points scored against him.
“Everyone from the top to the bottom of the lineup played really well,” Oetter explained. “Especially people who were wearing the Yale uniform for the first time.”
Among those first donning the Bulldog blue were C.J. Plimpton ’11, John Roberts ’12 and Mike Maruca ’11. Plimpton, who had been sidelined with an injury last year, decidedly won his match against Penn freshman William Browne, only allowing six total points. The only freshman to start on Saturday, Roberts crushed his opponent, Penn senior Andrew Zimmerman, only giving up two points. Maruca had a tougher match against senior Nick Malinowski, though he came through for a victory in the ninth position for the Elis.
“I was a little bit nervous since it was my first big match — ever,” said Maruca. “I didn’t think I played as well, or as aggressively as I could have, but in the end it didn’t matter. My opponent threw up afterwards, which was what I was going for.”
Yale’s ability to outperform Penn (1-2) was due to the intensity of their offseason training. Focusing on fitness and footwork, the Bulldogs (1-0) trained harder in the past few months than in previous offseasons.
“We worked a lot harder and that paid off,” explained Todd Ruth ’10. “I felt fitter than the kid I was playing.”
Maruca agreed and added, “We barely even played squash for the first month!”
Going into the match, Oetter said that the goal was not just to win, but to dominate. The team wanted their victory to be reflected in each set as well as in the overall score.
Though the Bulldogs trained hard and said they were more focused than ever before, their victory was not assured going into the match. In previous years, Yale has defeated Penn by narrow margins, winning 5-4 in close sets.
“It was nice to beat them so soundly,” said Maruca. “Some played ridiculously well.”
Among those who had a particularly impressive performance was Francis Johnson ’09, who took down senior Bobby Dickey in straight sets, not allowing a single point.
Also notable was Ruth’s defeat of freshman Trevor McGuinness, a longtime rival.
“I had never beaten him before,” explained Ruth. “He’s my friend from home though, so I couldn’t be that happy. Still, it felt nice to beat him.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the team’s outlook is hopeful and confident, as long as they are willing to put in the work. Yale’s biggest competitors are Princeton, Harvard, Cornell — which has a strong recruiting class — and the squash powerhouse Trinity. The No. 3 Elis see the Ivy championship as a definite possibility, as long as they remain focused.
“We’re trying to establish ourselves as Ivy League champions this year,” John Fulham ’11 explained. “Though Trinity, Princeton and Harvard are going to be tough, as always, we do have a shot at the Ivy title.”
Ruth agreed: “We could definitely give Princeton a run for the Ivy championship — that would be sweet.”
Yale will be hosting the U.S. Team Championships from Dec. 12 to 14 n the Brady Squash Center and resumes conference play on Jan. 10 at Dartmouth.