In its first homestand of the season, the squash team bounced back from a string of disappointing losses to sweep the three-match weekend series.
After suffering defeats at the hands of Amherst College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University, UR saw its overall record drop to 6-8 after one of the best starts in team history. It also marked the first time since their season opener against Franklin and Marshall College that the Yellowjackets fell below .500 in the standings.While the team saw no need to panic, there was definitely a sense of urgency among the players in the days leading up to the first match against Hamilton.
“We had to win. We were playing teams ranked lower than us,” junior Dave Easwaren said. “It was important that we didn’t stumble any further.”
The Yellowjackets took care of business early and often, beating Hamilton College 7-2 in the first match of the weekend and then shutting out Colgate University by a score of 9-0 Saturday.
There was no let down for the Yellowjackets on Sunday, as they picked up right where they left off, shutting out Northwestern University 9-0.At the No. 1 spot, senior captain Allen Fitzsimmons won his first two games without surrendering a single point. He would go on to secure the win with a 9-5 victory over Dinesh Balakrishnan in the third game.The team also benfitted from a well-balanced attack.
“Steve Gelb at No. 9 played strong after some tough losses,” senior Pete Avitable said. “So did another freshman, Max Benjamin.”While the players were pleased with the victories, they were careful not to grow overconfident following the wins.
“All three teams were ranked below us so we were expected to beat them,” Avitable said.
In the latest College Squash Association poll, the Yellowjackets were ranked 23rd overall while Hamilton, Northwestern and Colgate held the 28th, 32nd and 34th spots, respectively.
Playing at home for the first time all season, UR made the most of the opportunity.
By avoiding the hassles and distractions associated with team travel, the Yellowjackets were able to focus on the task at hand and concentrate on winning.
“Not having to travel was real nice because we were more rested for the matches,” Eastwaren said.
Avitable echoed his teammate’s sentiments.
“[Playing at home] is a very welcome change,” he said. “We avoid five to six hours in the van and getting up early to find the match. It definitely makes a difference.”
UR will finish up its regular season schedule this coming weekend when it hits the road to take on 12th-ranked Hobart College and 24th-ranked Saint Lawrence University.
While the team does not fully expect to beat Hobart, it knows that a win over St. Lawrence is crucial.
“Hopefully we can beat St. Lawrence convinvingly because we’re right above them in the rankings,” Eastwaren said. “I think we have the potential to be ranked much higher than them.”
With less than two weeks until Team Nationals at Princeton University, the squad will continue to focus on its goal of finishing the season ranked in the top-20.
By maintaining their current level of focus and effort, the players are confident that they can achieve their objective.
“As a team it’s just about staying where we are right now,” Eastwaren said. “We can’t let other things interfere. It’s just one more week of focus and then it will all be over with.”
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