Steve Musco

With wins in five of its first six matches and successful performances across the roster, the Yale men’s squash team has taken its season by storm.

Yale (5–1, 2–1 Ivy) continued its early season success with a triumphant stretch of matches against Amherst (2–3, 0–0 NESCAC), Tufts (3–7, 0–0), Penn (8–0, 2–0 Ivy) and Princeton (4–4, 1–1). With five remaining matches on tap for January, Yale’s positive results signal a successful remainder of the season.

“We played smart, tough squash on Saturday and, more importantly, we learned and improved our play for the following day,” No. 3 Harrison Gill ’21 said. “Having lost to Princeton last season, securing a win against the Tigers at home is really a testament to the work we have put [in] in the off season. Currently, everyone is healthy and playing strong squash, so I am very encouraged to face off against top-ranked teams later this month.”

The Bulldogs amplified their veteran endurance after sweeping two consecutive matches against Amherst and Tufts on Jan. 7, positioning them with an undefeated 4–0 ranking. Barring No. 7 Tiber Worth’s ’22 four-game match against Amherst, the Elis shut down both the Mammoths and the Elephants in triumphant victory. Worth also performed as the No. 6 seed against Amherst and the No. 4 seed against Tufts.

After the Amherst contest, No. 1 Spencer Lovejoy ’20 and Gill stepped off the courts for the day, allowing lower-seeded Elis to gain valuable experience in higher competitions. No. 2 rookie Nadav Raziel ’22 dominated at the No. 1 spot, allowing Tufts to score only 13 points total.

The remaining roster shuffled up to compensate for Lovejoy and Gill’s absences. Eric Kim ’22, Jacob Rhee ’21, Jonathan Kovac ’19 and Patrick Feeley ’22 emerged and prevailed against their Elephant opposition in seeds No. 5, No. 8, No. 9 and No. 10, respectively, in 3–0 contentions apiece. The Tufts match marked Feeley’s successful debut (11–4, 11–4, 11–6) on the Yale squad.

Yohan Pandole ’19 made two strong appearances throughout the daylong event after having forfeited his Brown match in December due to injury. With two clean sweeps, Pandole succeeded against Amherst at No. 9 and demolished Tufts at No. 7 with a notable set of 11–4, 11–5 and 11–1 decisions.

Yale has played five matches against Amherst since the 2008–’09 season, four of which have been complete shutouts. The imperfect 8–1 victory occurred in the 2013–14 season. Monday’s madness marked Yale’s first match of the season against the Elephants.

With less than a week of recovery, the Bulldogs returned to Brady Squash Center to face No. 4 Penn on Saturday and No. 9 Princeton on Sunday. The match against the Quakers marked the first match of the season in which Yale faced a higher ranking team.

This is not the first weekend that Yale has competed against Princeton and Penn back-to-back. In the past five seasons, Yale solely competed against the Quakers and Tigers in grueling weekends of squash. In those five seasons, Yale lost to both Princeton and Penn only once in 2017–18. The then-No. 6 Elis ruined their perfect season with a 5–4 blow against Penn followed by an 8–1 disappointment against Princeton the subsequent day.

With the 2018–19 season standing at a perfect 4–0, the Bulldogs had the chance to either revitalize their name or follow in the footsteps of last year’s blow.

But in the end, the team achieved neither of these things. While Yale suffered a 7–2 loss against the Quakers, they followed with a 6–3 triumph against the Tigers.

Gill and captain No. 8 Jay Losty ’19 both defeated their opponents in four and three games, respectively. After Gill suffered a difficult 8–11 first-game loss, his refocus and court tenacity resulted in three consecutive wins at 11–6, 11–5 and 11–6 apiece. However, the remaining Elis did not follow suit. Lovejoy challenged his Quaker opponent in the second game with a 12–10 score, but ultimately fell victim to a clean sweep. Worth also parted ways with his winning streak, falling in a three-game sweep.

Still, none of Saturday’s decisions reflected a digression in Yale’s abilities. Yale returned to Brady the following day to defeat Princeton in a 6–3 decision.

“We cannot think about yesterday’s loss today. It’s a new day, and we are very motivated to win,” Raziel said. “If we all play the way we know, we would definitely get the win.”

The top half of the roster performed well enough to secure vital points for the overall score. Lovejoy crushed his opponent in three, not allowing the opposing Tiger to score more than four points per game. Raziel, Gill and No. 4 Calvin McCafferty ’20 won more contentious matches. With Princeton repeatedly closing the deficit, the Elis had to outshine their opponents with early leads, consistency and technique maintenance. No. 7 Kim and Pandole also won their matches, with Pandole sweeping his opponent in three dramatic displays at 11–8, 13–11 and 11–8 apiece.

Saturday’s display was a valiant effort without the statistics to show for it. But Sunday’s performance clinched a necessary win to ensure that this season’s Bulldogs progress beyond their performances in past years.

As the Elis enter their season of comebacks, they will have to prove to themselves that they can perform and succeed against higher-ranked teams. Otherwise, they risk repeating last season’s folly. With matches next weekend against St. Lawrence University and Rochester, both of which finished above Yale last season, the Bulldogs will discover if they can topple top-tier competition.

“[St. Lawrence and Rochester] are two very solid teams, so we need to carry our momentum from the Princeton match into next weekend,” Losty said. “We are going to use this week to continue to improve and get ready for the weekend.”

Yale will play host to the Saints this Saturday and the Yellowjackets on Sunday at Brady Squash Center.

Lauren Cueto | lauren.cueto@yale.edu