The No. 7 Yale men’s squash team closed its 2016–17 regular season with a win and a loss to Ivy competitors to claim third place in the Ivy League.
On Friday, the Bulldogs (8–6, 5–2 Ivy) beat No. 9 Dartmouth (7–7, 3–4) 7–2 before traveling north to face off against archrival No. 2 Harvard (11–1, 7–0). Yale nearly upset the Crimson, whose 5–4 victory propelled the program to its fourth Ivy League title in the past five years. Had Yale won one more individual match against Harvard, the Ivy title would have been split three ways between the two archrivals and No. 3 Columbia (11–2, 6–1).
“I generally thought that we put on a really good performance yesterday, notwithstanding the final outcome,” No. 8 Pierson Broadwater ’18 said. “Everyone, up and down the lineup, really gave it his all and played some very high-level squash. On paper, I don’t think many people would have predicted that the final score would end up being 5–4 given both of our records this year.”
The win against Dartmouth secured the fifth consecutive win for a Yale team that struggled during the middle of the season. Coming back from winter break, the Bulldogs competed against five of the top-six ranked teams in the country in just 17 days. During that span — which featured just one home contest — Yale went 1–5, including four consecutive losses. Since then, the boys in blue have reversed their fortunes with wins in five of their final six contests.
Against Dartmouth, Yale’s No. 1 and 2, captain TJ Dembinski ’17 and Spencer Lovejoy ’20, both secured wins in just three games. At the opposite end of the ladder, Nos. 8 and 9, Broadwater and Calvin McCafferty ’20, dropped their first games 11–4 before surging back to win three straight each. Two Eli juniors claimed gutsy wins in five-gamers: No. 7 Arjun Kochhar ’18 won his first game before dropping two straight. Kochhar then battled back to win his fourth and fifth 11–7 and 11–3. Thomas Kingshott ’18 made an even more astonishing comeback after conceding his first two games: Facing sudden elimination in three straight contests, the Connecticut native rallied with 11–1, 11–7 and 11–6 wins.
With the win over Dartmouth, Yale was set to battle for a share of the Ivy title. This would be no easy task for the defending national champions, as Harvard headed into the match ranked No. 1 in the nation. Undefeated in Ivy play, the Crimson had suffered its first loss of the season just four days earlier, to then-No. 2 Trinity.
“Harvard was a good team, and obviously ranked No. 1 in the country, but we didn’t let that intimidate us,” Lovejoy said. “I think we played with nothing to lose out there and that really helped us to let loose on the big points and convert most of those.”
The top end of the Bulldogs’ ladder showcased its strengths with a 3–0 win from No. 1 Dembinski and a 3–1 tally from No. 2 Lovejoy. After the match, head coach David Talbott called Dembinski’s match his best performance in four years as a Bulldog. Nos. 6 and 7 Kingshott and Kochhar again claimed victories with respective 3–0 and 3–1 tallies. In his third and final game, Kingshott secured a grueling 16–14 win to claim his match.
No. 5 Max Martin ’18 and Broadwater both fell in three games to Harvard opponents. With the win, the two Crimson players — senior Devin McLaughlin and freshman Sean Hughes — secured undefeated seasons, speaking to the strength of Harvard’s roster.
“We had some bad losses earlier in the season, but being able to almost beat Harvard proves that we’ve worked hard to improve each of our games individually,” Martin said. “It obviously would’ve been great to have had a share of the Ivy League [title] this year, but we’ll have other opportunities to play for it in the future. We’re focused on nationals now, where we’ll replay Harvard in the first round. We’re all excited to get another shot to beat them.”
On Friday, the team will open play in the end-of-season national tournament, which is hosted at Harvard this year. The Bulldogs will compete for the Potter Cup, the College Squash Association’s A-division trophy. Last season Yale claimed the national title with a 5–4 win over Rochester at home.
The Bulldogs open play at 3:30 p.m. in Cambridge this Friday.