Vaibhav Sharma, Photo Editor

The Yale squash teams’ home matches against Drexel University were quietly pulled from the teams’ schedules last week, with no statement made publicly available by the Athletic Department. 

Three sources with knowledge of the situation said that a member of the men’s squash team tested positive for COVID-19 last week prior to the canceled match against Drexel, originally scheduled for Dec. 4. Yale’s Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella did not comment on whether the cancellation of the Drexel match came in response to a Yale squash player testing positive, only noting that the two schools “rescheduled the match for a date in the future that better suited both teams.” As of a Yale Athletics newsletter sent on Dec. 1, the Drexel match was still being publicly promoted. The match has been rescheduled for Jan. 9.

Gambardella later added that the rescheduling of the Drexel match “is not related to the recent spike” in on-campus COVID-19 cases. 

Drexel squash head coach John White declined to comment on the rescheduling. David Poolman, executive director and league commissioner of the College Squash Association, also declined to comment on the Drexel match and referred the News to Yale Athletics. 

The cancellation comes amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases on Yale’s campus, as Dec. 1 also marks the day that the University announced a reversion in its COVID-19 alert level from “green” to “yellow,” signifying low to moderate risk. In the seven-day period ending on Dec. 3, the University reported 98 positive COVID-19 tests, prompting University officials to mandate twice-weekly testing through the end of the fall semester for all undergraduates.  

In addition to the Dec. 4 Drexel match, a Dec. 1 home game against Williams College was removed from the Yale schedule. Gambardella explained that the cancellation was a decision made by Williams. Williams squash head coach Zafi Levy and Williams athletics spokesperson Dick Quinn did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Williams also canceled a Dec. 4 home match against Cornell University. 

In the College Squash Association’s COVID-19 guidelines, if a team is unable to start seven healthy players due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the team must submit medical documentation to the League Commissioner “verifying that the team cannot compete due to a medical condition or related impact,” with quarantine regulations being listed as an example of a related impact. If medical documentation is not provided, the team with the outbreak “may have to forfeit” the match.

The Yale men’s squash team roster includes 18 players, and the women’s team lists 14. An additional source confirmed on background that both the men’s and women’s teams have continued with regularly scheduled practices, despite the cancellation and the positive COVID-19 case.

The College Squash Association guidelines go on to explain that the schools involved must agree to a new competition date within three days of the cancellation, and a match may be deemed a “no contest” if teams are unable to find a new competition date that is feasible to both parties. 

“There have been instances in the past where teams have needed to reschedule matches,” Poolman wrote in an email to the News. “CSA’s practice is to receive information about the need to reschedule, provide guidance to the impacted institutions and coaches, as needed, and broker a rescheduling decision, if necessary.” 

According to Poolman, not all rescheduled matches need to be approved by the CSA, but in many cases the association plays some role in the process. 

When the Yale women’s soccer game against Central Connecticut was canceled on Oct. 26, Yale Athletics announced the cancellation on their website six and a half hours before the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff. The Yale women’s soccer Twitter account also announced the cancellation in a tweet posted about ten minutes after the Yale Athletics press release. The game was called off by CCSU after the Blue Devils elected not to travel to New Haven due to weather conditions and power outages across the state, according to a press release

Several college athletic programs have juggled positive COVID-19 cases with season schedules since the pandemic began and competition resumed last year. According to CBS Sports, 139 FBS college football games were canceled or postponed during the 2020 regular season, with most issues arising last November and December. The Ivy League canceled competition last year, but resumed league play with the start of fall competition in August and September. In September, a women’s soccer game between Brown and Dartmouth was postponed “due to COVID-19 concerns and safety protocols” within the Big Green program. Dartmouth announced the postponement of the game, originally scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25, in an official press release that the athletic department shared on Twitter two days prior. 

The canceled matches come as a hitch in an otherwise successful start to the season for the Blue and White, as both the men’s and women’s teams will finish the calendar year undefeated before continuing their season in early January. The men’s team is currently ranked fifth in the nation and are on a three-game winning streak, while the women sit fourth after wins in their first two matches. 

“[The rescheduled Jan. 9 match against Drexel] will be our first match of the new year,” Yale men’s squash captain Harrison Gill ’22 told the News. “We’re really excited to play against another highly ranked opponent.” 

When asked about the postponement of the Drexel match, Gill directed the News to the Yale Athletics Strategic Communications Office.

The women’s team will resume its season on Jan. 8 in a match against Stanford University. The Cardinal only have a women’s squash team at the varsity level.

James Richardson is a former staff reporter. He previously covered athletic administration, men's basketball and squash.