For the third year in a row, the Yale men’s squash team opened regular-season play with a crushing victory over Franklin & Marshall at home.
After a somewhat disappointing third-place finish in the Ivy Scrimmages three weeks prior, the No. 2 Bulldogs (1–0, 0–0 Ivy) stepped up their intensity and cleanly swept the No. 13 Diplomats (1–3, 0–0 Centennial) at the Brady Squash Center, further improving upon their 7–2 and 8–1 victories over Franklin & Marshall in the past two seasons.
“Despite our history of winning against them most of the time, it was really important for us to go into this match with a killer mindset,” Pierson Broadwater ’18 said. “Given how strong other teams are this year, winning tight matches is going to be as much about our attitude as a team as [it will be] about our physical ability as players. I thought this match was a great opportunity for us to test that out.”
This “killer mindset” manifested itself in the individual scores, as seven of the nine victories were secured in the minimum three games. No. 3 Liam McClintock ’17 edged out a narrow 15–13 win in his first game and then claimed an 11–8 tally in the second. His opponent Shams Abbas rebounded in the third with an 11–7 win, but was unable to keep up his momentum and fell 11–8 in the fourth and final game. No. 4 Max Martin ’18, the only other Eli to concede a game, dropped his match’s opener by a narrow 12–10 margin but bounced back to handily claim three consecutive wins.
For captain TJ Dembinski ’17, the major takeaway from the match was the indication that Yale will once again be a top-tier team this season.
“To win the match by a margin of 27–2 when it comes down to individual games is a great way to start the season and a statement about our mentality,” Dembinski said. “There were a bunch of highlights from the match, but for me the best was seeing the freshmen play so well.”
Playing No. 1 for the Bulldogs, Spencer Lovejoy ’20 secured an incredible 3–0 win against Cole Osborne, an opponent that has beaten his top-seeded Yale competitors in each of the past two seasons. Lovejoy jumped to a quick lead over his formidable challenger with a pair of 11–5 tallies, and then withstood Osborne’s last-ditch efforts to collect a 13–11 win in the third.
Towards the bottom of the lineup, No. 8 Calvin McCafferty ’20 trounced Franklin & Marshall’s King Bassett in the Bulldog’s collegiate debut, and classmate Parth Bhatia ’20 added a 3–0 victory in an exhibition match over Diplomat senior Kareem Mawla.
“Now that the season has started we’re really looking get into the competitive mindset and treat every team the same way,” McCafferty said. “My first match was really exciting. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been for a squash match and it definitely showed in the first couple games. I really had to focus on calming my nerves and not getting too tense on court, but once I did that I managed to win in three.”
In addition to the freshmen debuts, the team’s dominance throughout the ladder was particularly impressive as the team played without top contributor Kah Wah Cheong ’17.
The Bulldogs open Ivy League competition on Tuesday when they host No. 16 Brown (0–0, 0–0 Ivy). Like Franklin & Marshall, Yale has been dominant against Brown over the past few seasons, having conceded just two individual matches to their ursine foes since 2010. The Elis outmaneuvered Brown 9–0 in the first round of the Scrimmages earlier this year and are looking to do the same this week.
“We’re going to approach the Brown match in the same way we did the [Franklin & Marshall] match,” McCafferty said. “We had a convincing victory over Brown in Scrimmages, but we’re looking to go out there and focus on our squash not theirs, and just play our game.”
Last season the Bulldogs claimed the Ivy title with a perfect 7–0 record against conference opponents. Yale will face off against Brown in the first test of its title defense campaign at 6 p.m. at the Brady Squash Center.