The No. 7 Yale squash team seeks a championship repeat this weekend–—and redemption—against No. 2 Harvard in the first round of the Potter Cup, the College Squash Association’s “A” division end-of-year tournament.
In the final match of their season last Sunday, the Bulldogs (8–6, 5–2 Ivy) nearly upset the heavily-favored Crimson (11-1, 7-0) on home court. Harvard’s 5–4 win, however, secured the team its fourth Ivy League title in the past five seasons. Last year, the boys in blue beat Harvard 6–3 in their season closer to claim the Ivy title en route to the program’s first national championship in 26 years. This time around, Yale is confident it can reverse Sunday’s scores.
“The team has continued to improve and play at a higher level overall these past three weeks,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “We have a lot of momentum and are excited to have a rematch on Friday. We are peaking at the right time. We are disappointed not to win a share of the Ivy [title], but to see this team push this Harvard group to 5–4, given their season to date, shows the progress of this year’s team.”
Despite the loss to Harvard, the Elis ended their season on a high note, with five wins in their final six games. This streak came as a reverse of fortune after a midseason skid. After returning to campus during winter break, the Bulldogs played five of the top six ranked teams in the nation in just 17 days. During this span, which saw just one contest played on home courts, the team came away with a record of 1–5, or 13–39 in individual games played. By contrast, the team lost just two matches last season.
Talbott, as well as many players, attributed the disappointing results to the team’s arduous travel schedule and the increased level of competition across college squash this season. With its string of recent wins, however, the team seems to be building momentum.
“I have felt that the team as a whole has shown tremendous resolve this year,” captain TJ Dembinski ’17 said. “Very easily the guys could have hung their heads low after some tough losses, but instead the team has buckled down and bought in. That attitude isn’t shown on paper but is palpable in the locker room. I know it’s going to pay off this weekend at Nationals.”
This Friday, the Bulldogs enter the single elimination, top-division tournament seeded seven of eight. During the regular season the team went 1–6 against Potter Cup opponents, though Pierson Broadwater ’18 said that the team’s current level of play is unrecognizable from that found in mid-January, when the team collected five of those losses.
As the seventh seed, Yale will face off against No. 2-seeded Harvard in a rivalry rematch. Last season, the roles were reversed as Yale entered the tournament seeded second. Given Yale and Harvard’s narrow 5–4 contest last weekend, it seems that an upset is within the underdog’s reach.
Yet accomplishing this will be no simple feat. The Ivy champions went undefeated in conference play and suffered just one loss on the season — a narrow 5–4 defeat to No. 1 Trinity. Still, it takes just a single lucky bounce to seal a team’s fate. Last season, then-No. 3 Rochester upset top-seeded Trinity 5–4 in the tournament’s semifinals. If it is any sign of encouragement for the Bulldogs, last year Rochester fell to the Bantams, 4–5.
“The team is really excited for this weekend,” Broadwater said. “We are happy to have the opportunity to take on Harvard again and are eager to put into action the lessons that we were able to take away from this past weekend.”
The past three national champions — Yale, Harvard and Trinity — have all won the tournament when playing on home courts.
The Bulldogs open play at 3:30 p.m. in Cambridge.