On  Sunday, Jan. 17, the University of Rochester squash team pulled off an impressive upset against Yale University, ranked second nationally. This is the fourth time in Yellowjacket history that this feat has been achieved. Aiding the ‘Jackets in achieving this historic victory was Junior Ryosei Kobayashi, who defeated his opponent T.J. Dembinski 3-0 in the second slot. Besides earning  All-League and All-Academic honors from the Liberty League during his sophomore season, Kobayashi was previously ranked as  the #1 junior player in Japan.

 

How did squash become a part of your life?

I have been playing squash for 14 years, since when I was seven. My father got me into squash, and we have always been serious about it, practicing every day, traveling a lot for tournaments, in and outside of Japan. Looking my life back, squash has always been a part of me—perhaps more than just a part.

What inspires you to keep playing?

The characteristics of squash. Squash is an individual sport, and it requires so many physical and mental abilities, which makes it a very interesting sport because there are so many styles of game. My style of game is attacking, constantly putting pressure on my opponent. But 12 of my teammates play differently, each has his own style, such as defensive, clever, all-arounder, and tricky. My biggest disadvantage is height and reach, in general, but it is actually an advantage compared to bigger players, because I can move quicker on the court than most of them, and am able to easily hit more shots that require physical flexibility and quickness. So even if you are worse on a few things than your opponent, you can still cover the disadvantages with possibly only one of your own advantages that others don’t have.

How did it feel to play for the Japanese National team? 

It is obviously fun and gives me a great feeling of representing my own country. But, at the same time, there is a little bit of pressure from expectation of results, which actually makes me play better because pressure usually gives me motivation to focus and perform well.

The ‘Jackets are  facing number one–ranked Trinity College this coming Sunday. How are you and your team going to prepare for that match?

We just had a great weekend, beating Columbia 9–0 and strong Yale 5–4. But in order to come back with a win from Trinity, we have to get over the feeling of achievement (but keeping the confidence) and focus to prepare well for the next few days. We had a solid meeting on Monday, and we know exactly what we have to do in order to play well this weekend.

What has been your biggest challenge in the sport?

My  biggest challenge was World Junior Team Championship in 2012 in Qatar. My team (including current teammate Tomotaka Endo) was seeded somewhere around 14 out of about 20 teams. But that was our last team tournament we would ever play before turning 19, so we were very determined about finishing in as high a place as possible. As the seeding shows, we were not expected, but did our best and finished sixth in the world. That was my biggest challenge and biggest achievement of my whole career up until now.

Would you rather sing karaoke with Ricky Gervais or Serena Williams? 

Serena Williams! I kind of feel familiar with her because she is a tennis player! You know, racket sports.



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