There’s no better time to come into your own than in the final match of the regular season.
Such was the case for the UR squash team this past weekend, as it pulled out a tough 9-0 victory over the University of Pennsylvania Quakers on Saturday afternoon.
The Quakers came into the matchup ranked seventh according to the Collegiate Squash Association, while UR sat at No. 6.
‘We went into the game on Saturday hoping to get a convincing win, not just to prove to ourselves we deserve to be ranked No. 6 but to prove to the other teams that we are still a major threat,” junior co-captain Jim Bristow said. ‘I think the 9-0 victory did just that.”
Penn came into the game with momentum after losing a close 4-5 matchup to No. 5 Harvard University, the Quakers bounced back to beat Dartmouth College, 5-4.
But on Saturday, UR’s depth as it has for most of the season proved to be the difference.
The Yellowjackets only dropped one game on the day at the No. 9 position, where junior Yohay Wakabayashi came back after losing the first, 2-9, to beat his Penn opponent in four.
Sophomore Fred Reid clinched the win for the Yellowjackets at the No. 5 position, ousting Penn’s Joseph Raho, 9-3, 9-3, 9-0. Reid has lost just three matches this season, all of which were to top-five opponents.
Freshman Joe Chapman completed UR’s sweep at the No. 7 spot, but the win didn’t come easy. After letting his opponent take an 8-0 lead in the first game, Chapman rattled off 10-straight points to pull off the come-from-behind victory.
In the second game, Chapman again found himself with his back up against the wall. Penn’s Parker Justi had opportunities to take the game twice when he held a 9-8 advantage. Again, however, Chapman fought back to take the victory.
In the third game, the freshman proved to be too much for Justi. With the score knotted at three, Chapman finally found his footing, winning six-straight points to seal the victory.
‘It’s a learning experience,” head coach Martin Heath said of Chapman’s match. ‘I look forward to seeing Joe taking the initiative and getting some tough wins at Nationals.”
At the top spots, it didn’t take long for Bristow, sophomore Hameed Ahmed and freshman Beni Fischer to top their respective opponents. Fischer allowed his opponents just four points in three games, while Ahmed showed his prowess at the No. 3 spot with a 9-1, 9-1, 9-3 win.
By the time Bristow got on the court, UR’s victory was already confirmed. But knowing that only motivated the junior to continue the string of Yellowjacket victories.
‘Going on court knowing that nobody had lost yet actually motivates me not to be the first person to lose,” Bristow said. ‘None of these players like to lose and so the hard thing is trying to make sure he breaks down before you do.”
After a struggle for the first two points, Bristow pulled away, taking the first game en route to a 9-2, 9-2, 9-4 victory.
Freshmen Adam Perkiomaki and Matt Domenick and sophomore Will Newnham also had strong showings in the No. 8, No. 4 and No. 6 spots, respectively.
Perkiomaki topped Christopher Thompson, 9-1, 9-2, 9-2. In the final game, Perkiomaki scored nine-straight points to take the match.
At the No. 4 position, Domenick allowed his opponent just three points to come away victorious.
Newnham pulled out his match after a contentious first game against Penn’s Bobby Dickey. Newnham won the first game, 9-4, but the matchup was much closer than the score reflected.
In the end, Dickey was unable to keep his cool and Newnham pulled away to seal the victory, winning the second and third games by scores of 9-5 and 9-2, respectively.
The win was UR’s 10th of the season and gives the Yellowjackets momentum going into the CSA Team Championship. The ‘Jackets’ first-round opponent will be Yale University, who UR lost to 4-5 in January.
Heath said UR’s convincing win this past weekend gave the team confidence.
‘Both this match and last week’s match against Trinity [College in Connecticut] were expected results, though we have shown that we are coming together as a team at the right time,” he said.
In addition to Yale, UR could face off against some other familiar foes at the championships.
‘This win puts in a great position for nationals, because we are now in a group with Harvard, Yale and Cornell [University] all competing for third place,” Bristow said. ‘The advantage we have is that we are the underdogs and have no pressure to win, but will fight to get that third place.”
Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.