A productive weekend that featured three wins, including a pair over ranked opponents, helped the squash team to its best start in nearly two decades.
After doing away with Vassar College 6-3 on Friday, the Yellowjackets traveled to the U.S. Naval Academy to take on a trio of nationally recognized squads. Following a tough loss to host, and national powerhouse, Navy on Saturday, UR regrouped and salvaged the weekend, taking the next two matches and heading home riding a brand new winning streak.
The Yellowjackets defeated the University of Virginia 7-2 later that afternoon and then went on to beat George Washington University 6-3 on Jan. 19. The last victory was especially important because it came against a team seated very close to UR in the rankings. Through the week starting January 15, the Yellowjackets were ranked 22nd in the country, while the Colonials held the number 25 spot.
“The team right now is shooting to get into the teens,” head coach Chris O’Brien said referring to his squad’s College Squash Association national poll aspirations.
“Our schedule is pretty much designed to play a lot of those teams right around us so that we can have a chance to move up and get ahead of some of these teams.”
The win over GWU was the Yellowjackets’ fourth of the season over a top-30 opponent.
Senior Pete Avitable, junior Drew Chapman and freshman Billy Ferzoco each won three matches on the trip to lead the Yellowjackets. Chapman was victorious in an impressive 9 of the 10 games he played.
UR improved its overall record to 5-2 and is off to one of the best starts in team history. The last time the Yellowjackets began a season so successfuly was in 1983-84 when the team started out 5-0 and later went on to finish 12th in the country.
O’Brien attributes the squad’s victorious line of attack to a combination of hard work, concentration and player continuity.
“One of the greatest things for the guys right now is that I pretty much have a very similar team from the last three years,” O’Brien said. “We’ve gone from losing ways to winning ways and are beating teams we lost to in the past.”
Looking ahead to this Friday, the Yellowjackets face the unenviable task of squaring off against the top-ranked team in the nation, Trinity College. Boasting a roster chock full of professional players and other budding stars, the Bantams will likely play their B-team — humorously referred to as the “U.S. lineup” because only the foreign-born pro players are good enough to suit up for Trinity’s first squad — against the Yellowjackets.
UR will do its best to compete with the four-time defending national champion. Yet the team knows that in a match against a high-caliber foe such as Trinity, it is more advantageous to focus on learning and improving than it is to worry about the score.
The schedule does not get much easier for UR after that, as the Yellowjackets are slated to face Bates College, Yale University, Stanford University and Connecticut College in the Yale Round-Robin Tournament on Jan. 25 and 26. All four opponents are currently ranked, and Bates, Yale and Stanford can be found ahead of UR in the polls.
The Yellowjackets have a solid winning foundation to build upon for the remainder of the season as the players continue to make individual and team strides while climbing in the rankings. Facing a continuous string of top-tier competition should help prepare the Yellowjackets for postseason play a month from now when they travel to Princeton for Team Nationals.