Squash: Tigers down Yale, remain team to beat in Ivy League
Princeton squash established itself as a force to be reckoned with this week, as both the men’s and women’s teams continued undefeated streaks. The Tigers went into this week’s matches with confidence, coming off of huge wins against Harvard.
Both teams faced Penn at home on Wednesday and swept all nine of their matches. While the women did not start off at their strongest, they regained focus to dominate the Quakers.
“One of the biggest moments the past few weeks has been the opening 20 minutes against Penn,” freshman Rachel Leizman said. “Numbers three, six and nine were all down 0-1, and it wasn’t looking like a good start for the Tigers. But then each of those three players fought hard to stage huge comebacks, and by the end of the first shift, we were winning 3-0. And those three wins gave the rest of us the motivation to push in our matches.”
The women’s team defeated a visiting Stanford team handily in New Haven on Friday, winning 8-1.
The Tigers took to the road and faced their biggest threat on Saturday with matches against Yale, whose men’s and women’s teams are ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively. Once again, the Tigers came out on top, with a 6-3 victory for the men and a close 5-4 win for the women. The women started out behind, which once again forced the Tigers to refocus.
“We were down 3-2 when Rachel [Leizman], [junior] Libby [Eyre] and I took the court,” junior Alex Sawin said. “We had to win three of the last four matches to beat Yale. Rachel and I finished first, leaving the match at 4-3, and so the match came down to Libby Eyre. She was up two games, but the third was extremely tight. But like I said, Tigers fight til the end. Libby was able to clinch the match for us. Most of us have been aiming to beat Yale for our entire Princeton experience, so this was a very special moment when our hard work finally paid off.”
The men also played well against Yale, downing an opponent that has posed a big threat in the past and beat the Tigers at Ivy Scrimmages in November.
“Our confidence levels are much higher now, and it was a great day for us,” senior Todd Harrity said. “Everything didn’t go our way. But it’s a great thing to see that in each match, different players are stepping up and finding a way to win under the pressure.”
After tough matches against Yale, Brown proved an easy opponent. Both the men and women swept their nine games.
The women’s team emphasizes the role of teamwork in its successes.
“Squash is a unique sport where you can only control the outcome of your own match, and you need to find five on a single day to win,” Sawin said. “Each player this year has really taken that responsibility upon themselves and plays every match like it’s the decider. I know that when the match is on the line, my teammates will fight to the end.”
“I think what really contributes to our momentum this season is that, although each player wants to win her match for herself, she wants to win for the team even more so,” Leizman said. “And that’s a very powerful feeling — to care more about the team than you do for yourself.”
The men have managed not to miss a beat despite the sizeable gaps left by last year’s seniors.
“The biggest standout moment has been the impressive displays put on by our freshmen and sophomores who weren’t in the top nine last year, who have all stepped up in big ways and played some of their best squash for our team this week,” sophomore Tyler Osborne said.
With these victories, Princeton sets its sights on Ivy League and national titles, goals that seem within reach for the unstoppable Tigers. The teams only have Columbia and Cornell left to face in the Ivy League.
“This weekend was just another hurdle that we had to jump, and once again we were able to pull through,” Sawin said. “The season is just going to keep getting mentally and physically harder because we are now the team everyone is gunning for. But this weekend definitely put us one step closer to winning Ivies and has provided even more motivation to fuel us for these last two weeks of our season. Our captains still say ‘Play like the underdog,’ and we won’t stop until we have reached everything we have been dreaming about.”