After a hot start, the squash team hit a wall when it faced three highly-ranked opponents this past weekend at the Yale Round Robin Tournament. Hampered by fatigue and an injury to one of their top players, the Yellowjackets suffered consecutive losses to Bates College, Trinity College and Stanford University before rebounding on Sunday to defeat Connecticout College.
The loss to Trinity, the top-ranked team in the nation in Hartford, Conn. on Friday was more a learning experience than a disappointment. Trinity has developed into a squash dynasty by recruiting heavily outside the U.S. Of Trinity’s 19 roster spots, 10 belong to international players.
They’ve won four consecutive national championships. Despite the Yellowjackets 9-0 defeat, Coach Chris O’Brien was not disappointed with his team’s play. “I thought we played well,” he said, adding that Trinity boasts several of the top players in the nation. “It’s always good to face top competition.”
On Saturday, the team squared off against both Bates and Stanford, two opponents which the 23rd ranked Yellowjackets had a more realistic shot at beating.
Bates defeated UR handily, but the Stanford match proved to be far more compelling.
Over the past three years the Yellowjackets have faced Stanford a total of four times, losing every contest. Unfortunately, the fifth meeting would end in the same result, with Stanford coming out on top 5-4. Two Rochester players lost matches in a decisive fifth game. Freshman Billy Frezoco reached match point in the third game of a match before falling 6-9, 2-9, 9-8, 9-3, 9-2.
Coach O’Brien said that the loss to Stanford was a letdown for the team. “Defeating Stanford was one of our goals for the weekend,” he said, “The loss definitely hurts the guys.” The Yellowjackets would like nothing more than to face Stanford at nationals to avenge their loss.
UR was somewhat shorthanded in the losses, missing its number 2 player, Gen Izumida, to an injury. Sidelined by back problems, it is uncertain when Izumida will return.
In Izmumida’s absence, Senior Pete Avitable, who plays in UR’s fourth spot, has stepped up. Coach O’Brien praised Avitable for his recent play.
“Pete’s played very well this week and last,” he said. Avitable was 2-2 on the road trip, and 5-2 over the last two weeks. He was also the only member of the team to take a game from his opponent in the match against the Trinity.
On Sunday, the Yellowjackets bounced back from their earlier losses easily defeating Connecticut College 9-0. Coach O’Brien called the match a must-win. “We have to significantly beat those teams below us in the rankings.”
The road trip dropped the team’s record to 6-5. The Yellowjackets will look to retain their winning percentage when they travel to Boston next weekend. Once again UR will play three higher ranked opponents, 11th-ranked Amherst, 18th-ranked MIT, 21st-ranked Tufts. If the team hopes to continue to climb the national rankings, wins against MIT and Tufts are critical.
Looking further ahead, UR will play at home for the first time this year on February 8th and 9th against Colgate, Hamilton and Northwestern. The weekend will also feature a women’s squash match, as the UR will play host to the Hamilton.
Fassett can be reached at email@example.com.