Claiming a No. 10 ranking in the nation last season, the Yale men’s squash team enters the 2018–19 season with both an invigorated hunger and a fresh slate, aiming to reestablish itself as a national contender and capture an Ivy title.

The Elis fought their way through an inconsistent 2017–18 season with a 10–9 overall mark and a 2–5 Ivy record, priding themselves on showcasing competitive depth across a lineup that all too often wavered against the rotating competition. Five first-year Bulldogs replaced six outgoing seniors, whose contribution to Yale’s 2016 national championship — the first in over two decades — will live on as a testament to the current Elis’ potential.

“This team is coming off the worst finish in my tenure,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “But we expect to be back very strong as the expectation is an Ivy title and to contend nationally — the team is on a mission after [last year’s] uncharacteristic finish.”

The squash class of 2022 boasts a competitive resume: two of the five players have represented the United States at the National Championship while one has even claimed first at the Israeli National Championship.

Because four of the six graduated seniors occupied seeds three through six, Talbott lost the very core of his nine-manned lineup going into the preseason. How the Elis fill these voids — either by way of preexisting Bulldogs stepping up or rookies challenging their cohorts — will determine the consistency and outcome of future matches.

Seeded first and second, respectively, Spencer Lovejoy ’20 and Harrison Gill ’21 are set to continue spearheading the Elis with the same consistency that earned them First Team All-Ivy honors last season. Lovejoy reclaimed the No. 1 spot after falling victim to an injury that took him out of the first four games in 2017. This will be his second season coming off an appearance on the all-conference roster.

Gill boasted an incredible rookie season, finishing with a 12–4 overall record and 5–2 mark in Ivy play. Gill particularly shone in his Nationals performance against George Washington. With an alternating dominance for the five-game series, Gill never lamented, crushing his opponent with an 11–2 resolution.

Alongside Gill and Lovejoy, the Bulldogs boast eight fellow returnees with a total of four sophomores, three juniors and three seniors representing experience on the team. These 10 Elis witnessed the squash team fall lower and lower on the leaderboards throughout their tenure, down to the Bulldogs current No. 10 ranking. Last year, Tyler Carney ’21, Yohan Pandole ’20 and captain Jay Losty ’19 contributed on the scoring lineup at positions seven, eight and nine, respectively.

Losty proved himself as a consistent player in the wake of difficult matches last season, an important trait of captainship. Losty scored wins against Princeton, Columbia and Trinity—the No. 7, 2 and 1 teams last season, respectively. After qualifying for the Individual Championships last season, Losty performed in the Molloy North Bracket’s consolation quarterfinals. While Losty defeated an opponent from Drexel in the first game, his Dragon adversary returned with vigor to close the match — and Losty’s 2017–18 season — in four steaming games.

Alongside the aforementioned Bulldogs, Jack McCordick ’21, Jacob Rhee ’21, Parth Bhatia ’20, Calvin McCafferty ’20 and Jonathan Kovac ’19 make up the remainder of the Elis’ roster this season.

“The biggest thing that gives me high hopes for the season is that everyone is buying into the team culture, and they are excited for the season to start,” Lovejoy said. “We hope to compete for an Ivy title and return to the top eight and get the chance to fight for a national championship with the best teams.”

Last season, the Elis struggled playing on the road, losing a consecutive four games away from the Brady Squash Center. The Bulldogs also faltered in the Ancient Eight, dominating only Brown and Cornell 8–1 and 9–0, respectively. The remaining Ivy adversaries further demoted Yale to No. 10 after disappointing blowouts in the rest of the conference slates.

This is not new behavior for the blundered Elis, however. The 2016–17 Bulldogs also struggled competing away from home, giving way to two sets of four-loss streaks apiece. Nonetheless, this cohort of Bulldogs held their own against fellow Ivy opponents to boast a 5–2 conference record. The team attributed these past blunders to a faltering in training pace as well as plans to modify Yale’s training regimen to maximize more positive outcomes throughout the entirety of the season, rather than just the first half.

“We have been trying not to put a specific number in our minds regarding finishing position this season, and we are instead working on setting goals on a daily basis on the court and in the weight room,” Losty said. “We try and approach every practice and lift with a professional attitude and everyone seems to be buying into the process.”

The Elis view the last few seasons as motivation to overcome their hurdles in hopes of keeping pace with the remaining squads in the league. Spearheaded by Talbott, senior assistant coach Lynn Leong and assistant Coach Tim Lasusa, the Bulldogs are set to play 16 matches, a plethora of opportunities to prove themselves as a better, more cohesive team than in years past. With the addition of five distinguished first years alongside an experienced returning roster, the Bulldogs should embark on an upward trajectory towards a higher ranking and more positive results.

The Elis begin their season against No. 3 Harvard, a squad who has consistently dominated the Elis since the 2015–16 season.

Yale will host the Crimson on Saturday, Nov. 3 in the Brady Center.

Lauren Cueto | .