Setting the tone for a season in which the Yale men’s squash team returns eight of its nine 2014–15 starters, the Bulldogs came away with a first-place finish at home in the Ivy League Scrimmages this weekend.
A 5–4 victory over Harvard in the tournament’s final — including a miraculous eight-point comeback in the fifth game by Liam McClintock ’17 — highlighted the weekend for the Yale men. The women’s team also finished strong with a narrow win, taking down Princeton in their tournament’s consolation match to secure third place.
“The men dug deep to beat Harvard,” head coach David Talbott said. “Playing without captain Sam Fenwick ’16, we competed really well.”
The men — ranked sixth in the nation by the College Squash Association — began their conquest Saturday with an effortless 9–0 sweep of No. 11 Dartmouth, but the Elis faced adversity in their next two matches. Taking on No. 5 Columbia, Yale brought the match’s scored to 4-4 before T.J. Dembinski ’17, playing at No. 4, was able to gut out a five-game win for the Bulldogs.
On Sunday, the men faced off in the Scrimmage finals against No. 2 Harvard. The Bulldogs were without captain and top-three veteran Fenwick, who suffered a groin injury the previous day. The Bulldogs, however, happily accepted the trial.
Kah Wah Cheong ’17, Dembinski and newcomer Yohan Pandole ’19 claimed victories at the No. 1, 3 and 9 positions, respectively, but Harvard won four matches against other Bulldogs to take a 4–3 lead late in the match. Just one match away from a team defeat, McClintock then faced a daunting challenge after falling 10–2 in the fifth game. For eight straight points, McClintock and his Eli teammates were just one unlucky bounce from defeat. McClintock, however, survived all eight of those match points and two more later on, winning the fifth game 14–12 in what was, according to Talbott, one of the biggest comebacks ever seen in the Brady Squash Center.
“I played my match today for my boys,” McClintock said on Sunday. “Everything I did out there on court came from deep within.”
After McClintock’s triumph, all eyes turned to Arjun Kochhar ’18. Kochhar was able to claim a 3–1 win, thereby sealing the match for the Bulldogs.
The Eli men have now defeated Harvard in the final round of two consecutive Ivy Scrimmages, though in last year’s regular season, the Crimson ultimately defeated Yale 7–2 when it counted.
“Always feels good to get a victory over Harvard, even if it’s in a preseason match,” said Kochhar. “We weren’t to our full strength today with our captain unable to play due to injury, but the boys could still get the job done. I think that shows just how deep our team is and how we can rely on each other if one of us is struggling.”
The young and developing women’s team capped off an encouraging weekend with a third-place finish. On Saturday, the No. 5 Bulldogs decisively handled No. 7 Columbia by a score of 8–1. Later that evening, however, No. 1 Harvard — last year’s CSA champion — swept the Elis, sending them to the third-place match against Princeton.
Yale was able to bounce back and claim a narrow 5–4 win against their feline foes in a match that saw contributions from both freshmen and veterans. Georgia Blatchford ’16, Jocelyn Lehman ’18, Shiyuan Mao ’17 and newcomer Emily Sherwood ’19 claimed victories for Yale to make the score 4–4 heading into the ninth match, with Celine Yeap ’19 on the court.
Yeap sealed the victory for Yale, and, like McClintock, needed to escape from multiple match points for her Princeton opponent.
“I saved two match balls in the fifth to clinch the winning point for the team,” Yeap said. “At match ball down I looked out from the court, my teammates were cheering for me, and I could not bear to disappoint them. They were the reason why I kept going.”
Talbott said he has been impressed by the women’s team improvement over the past few months of training, and that he believes that his team will “surprise some teams” in 2015–16.
The Yale men and women can now prepare for their season opener against Franklin & Marshall on Dec. 5.