PRINCETON, N.J.: Ranked No. 1 in the nation for two weeks during the season, the Bulldogs entered the Men’s College Squash Association National Team Championships with high hopes. The season highlight, a win over Trinity that broke a historic 252-game winning streak, indicated Yale squash was on its way to top. But the Elis left Princeton, N.J., in a disappointing sixth place.
The Bulldogs were seeded No. 3 entering the tournament, but started off on the wrong foot with an 8–1 loss to No. 6 Cornell on Friday. The Elis followed with a 6–3 victory over No. 7 Dartmouth on Saturday, but finished off the weekend with a loss to No. 5 Rochester 5–4. Captain Ryan Dowd ’12 said the team had hoped to win the tournament, and the losses were especially painful for the seniors.
“We were expecting a tough weekend. The odds weren’t with us to win it all, but it was definitely possible,” Dowd said. “There are just so many good teams that are all really close in ability, so it could have been any of those teams that won.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs were down 3–0 after the first round of matches against Cornell. Ned Martin ’14 and Joseph Roberts ’15 lost 3–1 at No. 6 and No. 9 respectively, while Ricky Dodd ’13 played out five games but lost narrowly by a 3–2 margin at No. 3.
No. 7 Robby Berner ’12, who defeated Cornell’s Owen Butler in four games, recorded Yale’s only win against Cornell. Hywel Robinson ’13 came back after three weeks with a torn ligament in his toe to play at No. 2 but ended up reinjuring himself. Head coach Dave Talbott said regardless of the injury, the team just couldn’t come back from a 3–0 deficit.
Robinson added that he hopes to both recover 100 percent from his injury and best his coach in a squash match before the start of next season.
“You know, we played spotty yesterday, and Cornell played really strong,” Talbott said. “[The Big Red] played as well as they could’ve possibly played, and we didn’t match it. We got a little bit tight trying to come back. It’s really hard to win when you’re already down 3–0. It gives you no margin for error.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs managed to pull a 6–3 victory over a No. 7 Dartmouth. All four seniors — No. 3 John Roberts ’12, No. 4 Dowd, No. 6 Berner and No. 7 Samuel Clayman ’12 — won their matches against the Big Green, whereas Friday only Berner was able to secure a victory.
No. 9 Eric Caine ’14 and No. 5 Martin both swept their matches in three games apiece.
John Roberts said he was proud of the way the team came back against Dartmouth after losing the previous day to Cornell.
“I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “We fought really well, and it felt good to get a win especially after our loss and still feeling the effects from that. We came back firing.”
On Sunday, Yale went up against No. 5 Rochester and fell 5–4 in a close match. At No. 1, Kenneth Chan ’13 lost 3–0 after a match of long rallies, and No. 2 Dodd also suffered a losing sweep. The middle of the ladder, Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 , came out on top, with Berner winning at No. 6 in a tight 3–2 match. Clayman, Roberts and Caine all lost 3–2 at No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 respectively.
Clayman said the team suffered losses at the bottom of the ladder, as it adjusted the lineup to fill the spots for the injured Robinson and Charlie Wyatt ’14.
“We were a little thinner than we usually are because our No. 2 [Robinson] is injured,” Clayman said. “Our 2-9 spots all had to shift, and it really showed when we lost 7, 8 and 9 all in five games.”
He added that during the season, Yale bested Rochester in a close 5–4 match even when the entire Yale ladder was healthy.
Everyone in the top nine said Berner was the strongest presence on the court for Yale. Berner came out of the weekend with a perfect 3–0 record.
Walk-on Sam Shleifer ’15 was given a chance to play at No. 10, his first competitive collegiate match, and split his two matches after five games each.
At least five to seven players on the Yale squad are expected to qualify for the individual national championships at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Dowd said.