The UR squash team has something it hasn’t seen much of since head coach Martin Heath took over the job depth.

Following a season last year that showcased the talents of the top positions, UR finished the season ranked 10th in the country according to the final poll produced by the College Squash Association.

This season, the ‘Jackets showed up on the CSA’s preseason poll at the No. 5 spot. What’s the difference? A very talented recruiting class that is excited about the opportunity to play among the nation’s best.

‘We have a very strong team that is now quite deep,” Heath said. ‘Most of the team is self-motivated, though they are all quite excited at the prospect of rising up the rankings further, so motivation isn’t an issue.”

UR boasts four freshmen on its roster this year, three of whom Matt Domenick, Adam Perkiomaki and Joe Chapman have enjoyed success in the ‘Jackets’ regular lineup. Over winter break, the ‘Jackets added another international name, Beni Fischer of Switzerland, to their rotation. As UR traveled to Harvard University to take on the Crimson and then to Yale University to play the Bulldogs, Bowdoin College and Bates College this past month, the Yellowjackets’ newcomers proved to be valuable assets.

Starting with the Dartmouth College Big Green at home on Dec. 11, all of UR’s opponents have been ranked in the CSA’s top 15 in the nation. The ‘Jackets defeated the Big Green, 8-1, in the matchup, individually sweeping their opponents by 3-0 scores in all but one of their wins. At the time, Dartmouth was ranked No. 8 nationally.

However, the ‘Jackets faltered to sustain the momentum they had built in their next four games. UR dominated Bates and Bowdoin by 9-0 tallies but also dropped games to both Harvard and Yale by identical 4-5 scores.

In the December matchup against the Crimson team who is ranked No. 5 in the CSA poll, UR found itself in a hole early. Sophomore Frederick Reid came up on the bad end of a 2-3 decision at the No. 3 spot, while Chapman at the No. 6 spot and sophomore Edwin Goncharuk at the No. 9 position both fell.

The Yellowjackets stormed back with wins by juniors Yohay Wakabayashi, Perkiomaki, and Domenick as well as sophomore Will Newnham. Both freshmen swept their opponents. In the No. 2 spot, sophomore All-American Hameed Ahmed had Crimson Verdi DiSesa pinned after winning the first two games. But DiSeda fought back, winning the third game and, in the fourth game, diving three times in one rally on a match point. DiSeda eventually won, 3-2.

With the match coming down to the No. 1 matchup between UR junior All-American Jim Bristow and Harvard All-American Colin West, the Crimson proved to have the upper hand, winning 3-0.

‘It was heartbreaking to come so close to a win and have it taken from you,” Bristow said. ‘The advantage of being a close team is we all share the bad times and will now thrive on the good times when we win those 5-4 matches.”

After posting back-to-back 9-0 sweeps of Bates and Bowdoin at Yale, UR found itself back in the same position against the hosting Yale Bulldogs at the wrong end of a 4-5 decision. Domenick dropped his first match of the season a hard-fought battle where the freshman dug himself out of a hole after losing the first game, 0-9, only to fall in the fifth game.

‘As a freshman, I feel as though the biggest challenge I face is getting used to the college squash atmosphere and not getting discouraged by the more experienced players,” Domenick said.

With losses in four spots, the match was decided before Bristow stepped on the court for the final match. Bristow, Perkiomaki and Reid beat out their Bulldog opponents, and Fischer swept his opponent in three games.

Ahmed battled a cramp in his arm throughout the match and was unable to close out Bulldog John Fulham. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 3 in the most recent CSA national poll.

‘Yale was almost identical [to the Harvard match],” Bristow said. ‘We continue to find ourselves on the wrong end of these rollercoaster matches, [but] I think every time we play these matches, we learn something new.”

And while the losses are disappointing for UR, the fact that they were so close is a testament to how much the squad has developed over the past couple years. The addition of some of the world’s top players to this ‘Jackets team has already allowed them to break into the nation’s top 10 and has earned them national recognition as a team with tremendous potential.

In the coming weeks, the validity of UR’s current No. 6 ranking by the CSA will be tested again. On Friday, they’ll attempt to prove themselves as they take on Cornell University, who is ranked No. 4 in the CSA poll.

‘The team’s goal is to finish in the top four at nationals,” Bristow said. ‘A win over a big rival like Cornell this Friday would give us the momentum to cause some upsets at nationals.”

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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