After a busy weekend that included three matches, the Yale men’s squash team concluded its season with a sixth-place finish at the Collegiate Squash Association national championship, hosted by Hartford, Connecticut-based Trinity College.
“[Nationals is] a sort of a compressed version of the season,” Edward Columbia ’18 said. “It’s three days of all of the toughest matches you’ve had throughout the year … Unlike in the regular season in which you might have a breather, you know you are going to have three tough matches and this elevates the level of play because people know it’s the last time to perform.”
The Bulldogs (11–6, 5–2 Ivy) headed into the tournament ranked fifth in the nation, and were set to play No. 4 Columbia (13–4, 6–1) in the first round. Earlier this season the Bulldogs were upset 5–4 by a Columbia squad that was predicted to lose.
This weekend, the Bulldogs repeated the performance from earlier in the season, suffering a narrow 5–4 defeat to the Lions. Despite winning the No. 6 through 9 positions, the Elis surrendered matches in the top five positions.
After suffering a back injury in the first week of the season, No. 9 Zachary Leman ’16 was able to make a recovery and compete in the national tournament, despite not playing a single match this season. Leman dropped the first two games 9–11 and 1–11, but rallied and won three consecutive games (11–9, 11–7, 11–8) to secure a win.
With the teams tied 4–4, Max Martin ’18, playing at No. 5, found himself ahead 10–9 in the fifth game. After hitting what was believed to be the match-winning shot, the play was reviewed and controversially overturned. Columbia’s Mohamed Abdel Maksoud then went on to win the match 12–10, clinching a decisive victory for the Lions. Had the call gone in the Bulldogs’ favor, Yale would have secured a top-four finish.
“We had a heartbreaking close loss to Columbia on Friday and our expectation was to win that match — not in a sense of entitlement, but in a sense of feeling capable,” Columbia said. “We got edged out. People fought hard and played very well, and we ended up just coming up short 5–4. It was made adamantly clear that we needed to finish strong and play out the rest of the matches a high level.”
The next day the Bulldogs set their sights on No. 8 Penn (9–8, 3–4 Ivy). Despite a tighter match than Yale’s 7–2 triumph over the Quakers earlier this season, the Bulldogs still managed to come away with a 5–4 win.
Yale then moved on to the consolation finals, in which they faced No. 6 Rochester (12–5). Despite edging out Rochester 6-3 in January, the score was reversed as Rochester bested the Bulldogs by the same score. The trio of freshmen — Columbia, Martin and Pierson Broadwater ’18 — contributed all three of Yale’s wins.
To demonstrate the closeness of college squash, Rochester, who finished fifth, was the only team to beat eventual national champions Trinity during the regular season.
With the loss, Yale ended its season and finished sixth in the national tournament.
“This weekend was tough as we had the hope of winning it all but I thought we all bounced back well from our initial disappointment of losing to Columbia,” Thomas Dembinski ’17 said. “Now that this season is over, I couldn’t be prouder to start training for next season with such a great group of guys by my side.”
This season the Bulldogs faced challenges both on and off the court, as top-six players Zach Leman and Kah Wah Cheong ’16 both sustained injuries that prevented them from playing.
For captain Joseph Roberts ’15 and fellow senior Huw Robinson ’15, the match against Rochester marked the conclusion of their collegiate squash careers.
“Playing squash for Yale has exceeded all expectations,” Roberts said. “It was a huge privilege and honor to play squash here … I have had the privilege of playing with some great guys throughout my four years and … I couldn’t have asked for much more.”
While Yale’s season concluded Sunday, several Bulldogs will compete next weekend at the C.S.A. Individual Championships at Princeton.