Men’s squash posts convincing victories over Penn, Bowdoin

Men’s squash continued their strong play this week with wins against Bowdoin and Penn, but suffered a difficult loss to an overpowering Yale team. The victories on Friday night and Saturday improved the Ephs’ record to 5-1 with traditional powerhouse Harvard coming to Williams for a match on Thursday.

“It was a great weekend,” said head coach Dave Johnson. “I’m thrilled with the way the team is competing.”

After a short break following a busy week, the team set out for Yale on Friday faced with the challenge of playing three matches in two days.

In Friday’s first match, the team squared off against the third-ranked Yale Bulldogs. While the team played hard, Yale showed why they are one of the premier teams in the country with a convincing 8-1 victory over the Ephs.

Preventing a shutout was a gusty performance from co-captain Win Tangjaitrong ’02. Commonly the Ephs’ number-one player, Tangjaitrong suffered an injury to his Achilles tendon earlier in the week and was forced to miss practice time.

Playing out of the second slot for the Yale match, Tangjaitrong played poorly early on and quickly fell behind two games to none to Yale’s Josh Schwartz.

“The injury was insignificant physically,” said Tangjaitrong. “Giving up was the last thing on my mind. I definitely fought my heart out and hoped for the miracle to happen, and it did.”

Down 0-6 in the third game and three points away from defeat, Tangjaitrong began to claw back into the match. He rallied back to win the third game and then took the fourth game to force a deciding fifth game.

In a closely contested game, Tangjaitrong took a 7-4 lead but two errors by Tangjaitrong made it a 7-6 affair, at which point the two players exchanged serves over and over, with neither player able to forge ahead until Schwartz hit a low drop-shot for a winner to tie the game at 7 all. However, Tangjaitrong held out and took the last two points to win the game 9-7 and the match 3-2.

The win was especially sweet for Tangjaitrong, who had been disappointed with his performances in the team’s previous matches. “This absolutely helps my confidence,” said Tangjaitrong. “Once I get my confidence back, I’m only going to play better and better.”

The team had little time to recover physically from the Yale match as they played Bowdoin immediately following the conclusion of the contest against the Bulldogs. In a match that they were favored in, the Ephs rolled over the Polar Bears in easy fashion and came away with a 9-0 sweep. None of the players had a challenging match as the Ephs dominated the Bears throughout. “We were in a match that we were expected to win,” said Johnson. “It was a good, solid effort after taking our lumps against Yale.”

Following an overnight stay in scenic New Haven, the team traveled to Amherst to face an up-and-coming Penn squad that had defeated a solid Denison team earlier in the season. In what was expected to be a close, hard-fought match, the Ephs instead handled the Quakers through and through, coming away with an 8-1 victory.

“I really thought it would be a close, 5-4-type match,” said Johnson. “We were as competitive in this match as we have been all year, especially the bottom of the lineup. I’m really excited. It’s an Ivy League school, and Penn’s a skilled team that’s getting better. This win gives us a good sense that we will be ranked fifth, barring an upset from Brown or Amherst,” Johnson said.

Tangjaitrong, number-three player Max Montgelas ’03 and number-four Ross Koller ’04 defeated their opponents in the minimum three games, whereas number-five Dan Bishop ’04, number-six Dave Morris ’03 and co-captain Matt Haldeman ’02, at number-eight, won in four.

Victories by Tangjaitrong, Koller, Morris and Haldeman in the first round of matches gave the Ephs a quick 4-0 advantage. In the second round, Montgelas won his match in three games and number-seven Pat Curtis ’02 and number-nine Todd Herlihy ’05 repeated their comeback victories of last week’s Cornell match. Both players were down, Herlihy 2-1 and Curtis 2-0, before rallying back to win 3-2. The only loss came at the top of the lineup, where Penn’s star recruit Rich Repetto defeated Parth Doshi ’03 in a well-played five-game match; Doshi, who can play out of the number one or two seeds, was the top seed for the Ephs.

“This win is a great morale boost,” said Tangjaitrong. “Yale’s too strong for us. Beating Bowdoin 9-0 and Penn 8-1 was a clear message to everyone that we will be a tough team to beat.” The Ephs will have the final home match of the year this Thursday at 5 p.m. when they will face second-ranked Harvard.