A pair of back-to-back home wins against conference rivals this past weekend keeps the No. 9 Yale squash team (7–5, 4–1 Ivy) on track to battle for a share of the Ivy title as it heads into its final two matches of the 2016–17 regular season.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs bested No. 10 Princeton (3–7, 1–4 Ivy) 6–3, followed by a 7–2 scotching of No. 6 Penn (7–5, 3–2 Ivy) the next day. The pair of wins puts Yale on a four-game winning streak as the team heads into the crucial final matches of the season against Ivy competitors.
“The weekend was a very clinical performance by all of us,” said Spencer Lovejoy ’20. “There was noticeably more energy and urgency out on the court. We went in with a mission and showed both teams that we meant business. I think it also helped that we came out guns blazing in both matches.”
This season the defending national champions have seen disappointing results at times, in large part due to their strenuous travel schedule. After opening the season before winter break with two relatively low-pressure wins at home, the Bulldogs returned to the Brady Squash Center in mid-January and fell 8–1 to then-No. 3 Rochester, whom the team bested 5–4 in last season’s Potter Cup final. Yale was then on the road for seven consecutive contests, of which they won only three and lost four in a row. During that span the players were outscored 30–33 in individual game play and the team dropped from No. 2 to No. 9.
The team currently boasts a 4–1 record at home and 3–4 record on the road. By contrast, last season the team was 6–1 both at home and on the road and only played more than two consecutive away contests once.
The weekend’s performances against Penn and Princeton seem to have turned matters around for Yale, which is currently riding a four-game winning streak.
“[The wins] were crucial confidence builders,” Pierson Broadwater ’18 said. “TJ [Dembinski ’17] played great squash all weekend, picking up tough wins at No. 1 against two really solid players. Liam’s [McClintock ’17] win on Sunday was great too. As for me, playing first all weekend, my main task was to try to be as clinical as possible so as to get the team out in front early. Momentum can be a major factor in a match, and going up 2–1 or 3–0 in the first round is a huge boon compared to the other way around.”
And sure enough, the Bulldogs came out barking against the Tigers in the match’s first round of play. No. 2 Lovejoy and No. 8 Broadwater both secured 3–0 routs over their feline foes. With the No. 6 contest tied 2–2, Thomas Kingshott ’18 bested his opponent 13–11 in the fifth.
Building on his teammates’ push, captain Dembinski, playing at No. 1, won his contest in five as well, while Nos. 3 and 4 Kah Wah Cheong ’17 and McClintock, respectively, both fell in their five-gamers. Wins also came from No. 9 Calvin McCafferty ’20 and No. 5 Max Martin ’18.
Yale’s second match of the weekend started much like the first, with all three Bulldogs conquering their Quaker competitors in the first round of play. Once again, Nos. 2 and 8 Lovejoy and Broadwater cleaned up with 3–0 tallies, while No. 6 Kingshott dropped just one game, to set the tone for the remainder of the match. No. 1 Dembinski required just three games to claim victory and No. 4 McClintock won a tight five-gamer that saw 11–7, 15–13, 5–11, 3–11 and 11–9 tallies. Nos. 5 and 7 Martin and Arjun Kochhar ’18 claimed wins as well.
Head coach Dave Talbott corroborated Broadwater’s remark that seizing a 3–0 lead in the first round was a major contributing factor to the team’s successes.
With the pair of wins this weekend, Yale improved to 4–1 in Ivy competition and is tied with No. 3 Columbia, which beat the Bulldogs 7–2 earlier this season. No. 1 Harvard has a perfect conference 5–0 record, which includes an 8–1 rout over the Lions.
Yale will next play No. 8 Dartmouth at home on Friday before heading to Cambridge to face off against archrival Harvard on Sunday in what will be the team’s final match of the season. Barring any major upsets, Yale will need a pair of victories to secure its share of the Ivy title.
“Going forward I really like how things are shaping up for the end of the season,” Lovejoy said. “I think everyone is working hard to improve that extra 1 percent of their game both physically and mentally and it is paying off. We are going to hit the big stage next weekend with the culmination of our regular season and then the team nationals. I think we are in a great place to shock some people.”
Last season, in their final two matches, the Bulldogs topped Dartmouth and Harvard 8–1 and 6–3, respectively, en route to the team’s first Ivy title since 2011, and this weekend they look to repeat history.
The squash team opens play against Dartmouth at 5 p.m. on Friday.