A combination of experienced seniors and several new first years provides enviable depth for the Yale men’s squash team this season as it looks to rebound after a disappointing campaign last year.
The Bulldogs’ eighth-place finish at nationals last season marked a demoralizing descent from the heights they scaled with a national championship in 2016. Although the Elis return a cadre of motivated upper-level players in addition to the talented sophomores in their attempt to return to the summit, they lost three seniors from last year’s third-place Ivy squad, including All-Ivy honoree TJ Dembinski ’17.
“The seniors are highly motivated to bounce back after a subpar season for the Yale men in terms of wins and losses,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “This group is a dangerous team given the experience and depth with the addition of our four freshmen with the possibility of three of them in the top 10.”
The Elis’ current ladder displays the balance the team has between the classes. At the annual Ivy League Scrimmage in early November, the Bulldogs received contributions from throughout the roster en route to a fourth-place finish. While the team has six seniors, four of whom currently play in the individual top slots, the team benefitted from wins by first years Harrison Gill ’21 and Tyler Carney ’21 in addition to the senior contributions to upset pre-tournament favorite Princeton 6–3 to open the weekend. However, the victory came at a price, as No. 1 Spencer Lovejoy ’20 left the tournament with an injured leg. Lovejoy enjoyed a stellar debut season last year, receiving All-Ivy honors after finishing 6–1 on the season.
Although Yale fell to both Columbia and Penn to conclude the preseason scrimmages, the Elis did not leave the court without a fight. Gill proved himself to be a player to watch this season after posting five total wins in three matches, one over Princeton, three against Columbia and one versus Penn, and earning a spot in the top nine players whose results count toward the varsity result. He is one of seven first years and sophomores on the roster, five of whom competed last year’s College Squash Association Individual Championships.
“[The team’s] strength is that we are very consistent throughout the lineup,” Gill said. “We have a very deep lineup in the sense that there isn’t a huge differential between our number two through nine.”
The Bulldogs’ performance at the Ivy League Scrimmage demonstrates the team’s drive for improvement after the disappointing eighth-place finish at nationals last season, Yale’s worst performance since 2010. Last year’s effort was especially disappointing coming off a national championship the season before.
The Bulldogs stumbled through a mid-season malaise with a four-match losing streak in the middle of last year. During that four-game sequence of away matches, they suffered a series of blowouts, recording a cumulative record of 6–38. Although the Elis followed this losing streak with a five-game winning streak, it was not enough to regain the morale needed to succeed in nationals.
“Going forward, to do better, we have to not burn out,” captain Thomas Kingshott ’18 said. “We are training really hard, but training for months on end can take a toll both physically and mentally. We need to be mentally focused and have our goals in mind throughout the season.”
The team continued to improve during the offseason, but lost two key contributors off the court, as former associate head coach Pam Saunders and assistant squash coach Lewis Walters stepped down from their positions last summer.
Saunders coached nine seasons for both the men’s and women’s teams, helping to capture a national championship for the two teams in 2011 and 2016, respectively. Walter contributed five years worth of guidance for both the men’s and women’s teams, and sits in the top 100 of the Professional Squash Association World Rankings. He left after being named the head coach for the University of Nottingham.
Lynn Leong and Tim Lasusa will assume positions as assistant coaches alongside Talbott for the upcoming season.
“Lynn comes in as a very successful coach,” Talbott said. “He is a former world class player and is highly respected by both the men’s and women’s teams.”
Besides the pre-season coaching turnover, the Elis also have big shoes to fill on the court after graduating Kah Wah Cheong ’17, Liam McClintock ’17 and Dembinski.
Kingshott said he trusts his team to push itself both on and off the court, and said he can rely on the other five seniors to set a standard that will continue in future seasons. Kingshott has had a successful career, posting an overall 11–3 mark his first year followed by a record of 11–2 his sophomore year.
The 2017–18 men’s squash regular season begins Dec. 1 against Drexel.
Lauren Cueto | firstname.lastname@example.org