Courtesy of Steve Conn

Looking to rebound from its worst season in the past decade, the Yale men’s squash team has a lot more at stake than just kicking off its 2018–19 season with a victory this Friday.

The No. 10 Bulldogs play host to Drexel, not only to commence their 2018–19 season but also to embark upon a seasonlong, arduous journey to salvage the former glory of the men’s squash program. With months of preseason training and five new members adding to the team’s uplifting rapport, the Elis appear to have the mindset and discipline of a team on the rise.

“We are going to go in with the mindset that no match will be easy and we will have to fight for every point if we want to win,” No. 1 Spencer Lovejoy ’20 said. “We have all had a more professional attitude toward all aspects of our training this year and I think it will pay off in this match and throughout this season as a whole.”

The match versus the Dragons will look to validate Yale’s preparation for the season as compared to years past. The 2017–18 Bulldogs commanded the court and defeated Drexel 6–3 in their season opener, one season ago. In the victory, the Elis performed well across the entire roster, with each player having to battle for individual triumphs — none of the top eight seeds managed to defeat their opposing Dragon adversaries in a straight set of three games.

As a rookie, No. 2 Harrison Gill ’21 played with particular vigor, dominating his opponent in four games and asserting himself as a top contender on the Eli roster. Graduated senior Max Martin ’18 fought it out in a five-game competition with dominance alternating from game to game, losing in the fifth game 11–9, but setting a tone of endurance for his teammates to emulate.

“We won a close match against Drexel last year, so this upcoming match will be a good metric of our growth,” Gill said. “Last year we had a strong start to our season, so we want to replicate that this year. We hope that we can perform well this Friday, and set the tone for an ambitious season.”

Even though the Elis vanquished the Dragons last season, Drexel remains a dangerous opponent to open the season. Yale faced Drexel in both the 2016–17 regular season and CSA team championships, losing 5–4 apiece.

Lovejoy’s regular season match in the No. 1 position proved to be the most exciting and disappointing of the day as the grueling match was determined by a single point. At the CSA championships, then-captain TJ Dembinski ’17 battled to the last point in the fifth game. The 93-minute match concluded in Drexel’s favor, 19–17.

“Drexel is a solid team, and we definitely need to take them seriously, but I believe that if [we] come out firing on Friday we can get wins at every position,” captain Jay Losty ’19 said. “This match will be crucial for setting a positive tone for the season.”

Considering Yale and Drexel’s oscillating relationship, this Friday’s interaction should yield exciting and indeterminate results.

Yale boasts a younger team featuring the quintet of first years who all entered the collegiate squash sphere with years of experience and credentials to show for it. Patrick Feeley ’22, Eric Kim ’22, Nadav Raziel ’22, Sam Turner ’22 and Tiber Worth ’22 will look to lead the team into the next half-decade starting with this, their rookie season.

The class of 2022 got its initial glimpse of the toiling road ahead at Yale’s annual Ivy League Scrimmage in November. The Elis finished third overall, a mark that was disappointing to some. However, Yale performed at a considerable level, reflecting its new determination and capacity to play with clarity and poise. The Bulldogs toppled reigning Ivy League champion Columbia 6–3 and Dartmouth 7–2. But in the semifinals, the Elis fell to their archival Harvard 7–2.

Yale takes on Drexel this Friday at 12:30 p.m. in Payne Whitney Gymnasium’s Brady Squash Center.

Lauren Cueto | lauren.cueto@yale.edu