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Men's squash drubs Yale

An hour before the men's squash match against Yale, Dan Rutherford and Peter Yik were exchanging fears. The star freshman and team captain had both missed Princeton's previous match against Penn with injuries, and both were back in the lineup against a well-stocked Eli team.

They had been through a lot: senior No. 1 Yik has a developing stress fracture in his shin that will continue to pain him whenever he plays. Rutherford, normally ranked No. 4, severely sprained his ankle a month ago, and would be playing with his ankle taped, his movement limited. And if that were not enough, it was Parents' Night.

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But there was no reason to be afraid. Princeton (6-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy League) walked onto the courts at Jadwin Gym and cleaned Yale (12-2, 4-1) out, winning a decisive 9-0 victory that included victories in 27 out of 28 games.

"We were all really psyched up to play," said freshman David Yik, who was back at his regular No. 2 slot after filling in for his brother at No. 1 last week. "Last year, Yale beat us 5-4 so we were all fired up to come out and show that the team has really improved and that we were ready to compete."

For the Yiks, whose parents flew in from Vancouver, the match was especially sweet. Eating a casual dinner with their parents to celebrate the Chinese New Year, everybody knew that this was the first and last year such a pre-match dinner would be possible, since Peter will graduate in June.

But the gentle pressure of parental spectators to spur on success was only part of the story. Intensified practices over the past month have also contributed to the Tigers' recent domination, which has seen them defeat their last two opponents by a combined score of 18-0. Focusing on maintaining concentration throughout a match and clinging to a game strategy, the team worked on cutting down careless errors.

Utopia

An ideal performance in a squash match would include hitting tight shots for good length — meaning that the player drives the ball to the back or very front of the court, hugging the wall as it flies. If a ball is tight, then the opponent will struggle to generate enough power to hit good length because there is not enough space for the ball to gather momentum.

The opposite of this would be loose shots of medium length, meaning the ball is in the middle of the court and easy to return. Hitting the tin is another common mistake; the ball cannot touch the 19 inch piece of metal that goes across the front wall and serves the same purpose as a net in tennis. Hitting tight balls for good length above the tin is an easy strategy to attempt. It is not as easy to maintain.

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"You'll get tired," David Yik said. "Sometimes if you're tired, you're tempted to hit a silly shot. You want to end the point quickly because you're getting tired. The focus thing just entails playing good squash for the whole match. I think I played pretty focused squash."

And so did everyone else. This was a critical match because Feb. 13 the Tigers will face Harvard, the nine-time defending Ivy League champions. The Crimson has already defeated Princeton twice, first in an Ivy scrimmage that did not count in the standings and later in a five-against-five meeting at the beginning of January. Rutherford is an important part of the equation for the Tigers, although he was slightly tentative, unable to change directions quickly or to make fast cuts during the match.

"I don't have the confidence on it yet," Rutherford said. But, he added, "it was a good feeling because I hadn't done anything competitive in a while. It felt really good to be playing."

He won his match, 3-0, and will be stronger on Sunday.

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But that is for next week. Now, the Tigers will hold onto their victory a little bit longer, imbued with a sense of confidence that should follow them to Cambridge.

"It was possibly the most positive feeling all year," the freshman Yik said of the win. "We ran out there with a goal, and that was to beat Yale convincingly. And we did that."

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