The No. 3 men’s squash team continued its winning streak with five straight victories this weekend, beginning with back-to-back 9-0 victories on Friday against Amherst and Williams and ending with a nail-biting 5-4 triumph over Rochester on Sunday.
The winning weekend started with the Bulldogs (6-0, 2-0 Ivy) traveling north to Massachusetts to face No. 15 Amherst (3-3) and No. 10 Williams (4-4). Neither team proved to be much of a challenge for the Elis, who won both matches 9-0. Against Amherst, every Yale player in the top nine won his match in straight sets.
“The team performed well,” C.J. Plimpton ’11 said. “We took the matches seriously, even though they aren’t our toughest opponents.”
The next day, the Bulldogs traveled to Hanover, N.H., for a conference match against No. 8 Dartmouth (6-3, 0-2 Ivy). The Elis won all but two matches to secure a 7-2 win against the Big Green.
“Dartmouth was a much closer match [than the matches against Amherst and Williams],” Ryan Dowd ’12 said. “We still won convincingly and our numbers four through nine all pulled out pretty easy wins.”
After two days on the road, the Bulldogs arrived back in New Haven to play No. 6 Rochester (6-2) and No. 13 Bowdoin (1-6). The Elis easily defeated Bowdoin 9-0, with eight matches decided in straight sets. Mike Maruca ’11 played in the No. 1 position and took down his opponent 9-2, 9-7 and 9-5.
Rochester, with a talented group of returning players and strong recruits, proved more difficult for the Elis.
“[They’re] just overflowing with international talent, but we beat them,” said captain Ethan Oetter ’09. “We went into the match better-prepared and fitter than they were.”
“We went in thinking that we had to win the first four matches,” explained Plimpton. “We were hoping to be able to scrape out a victory in the top five.”
A Bulldog win seemed unlikely as Colin Campbell ’09 lost in the No. 8 position and Francis Johnson ’09 was struggling at No. 7. Johnson injured his back during the third game, but managed to pull out a 3-2 victory.
“He showed what the Yale squash program was all about,” Oetter said. “It’s never giving an inch, always winning no matter what it takes.”
Even with Johnson’s impressive comeback, a Yale win seemed out of arm’s reach.
“[At that point] we thought that there was little-to-no chance of winning,” Plimpton said.
John Fulham ’11 provided a much needed come-from-behind victory in the No. 2 position. After losing the first two games, Fulham came back in the third game determined not to lose. The sophomore went on to crush his opponent and pull out a five-game victory: 4-9, 6-9, 9-6, 9-0, and 9-5.
“In the fifth [game], tensions were high, and both teams knew that a lot rode on this match,” Plimpton said. “The Stanford women’s team even came to watch!”
“Fulham just refused to lose,” explained Oetter. “He was a virtual back wall in the third, fourth, and fifth game — he just got every single ball back. He was putting himself through tremendous pain and at a certain point, you knew he was going to win.”
That winning attitude and unrelenting determination, along with a talented group of freshmen, has been Yale’s key to success.
“It’s not often that a team can count on their freshmen as much as we are able to,” Oetter said. “They have been on at every single match and really understand what’s at stake.”
Looking forward to the rest of the season, the Bulldogs face steep competition from Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and powerhouse Trinity. To prepare for these battles, the entire team is putting extra effort into staying focused.
“We’re trying to get fitter and stronger as a team,” Naishadh Lalwani ’11 said. “We’ve done well so far and we need to keep going.”
“Beating Rochester was a season-defining moment,” added Oetter. “We just sent a message that if you want to get through Yale, you’re going to have to basically drag us off the court.”
The Elis are back in action this weekend with away games against Western Ontario on Friday and Cornell on Saturday.