Men’s squash (11–10, 7–3 in the NESCAC) finished fourth at the NESCAC Championship last weekend, overcoming host Amherst but falling to Bates and Middlebury.
In a closely contested 3/4 playoff match Sunday, the Ephs suffered a 5-4 defeat to the Panthers, despite having won the previous meeting.
The match began with high tensions as both teams bid for third place. Playing the five-court system, No. 2 John Fitzgerald ’19, No. 4 Carl Shuck ’20, No. 6 Will Ruggiero ’19, No. 8 Claude Smith ’20 and No. 9 Andrew Litvin ’18 were up first.
Off the court first was C. Shuck, who claimed a 3-0 victory to put the match score at 1–0. However, Smith fell shortly after, evening the contest. Following suit, Litvin and W. Ruggiero both fell in four games, though not without a fight. After a victory at the No. 2 position courtesy of Fitzgerald, the Ephs trailed 3-2.
Next on court were co-captain Jamie Ruggiero ’17, Will Means ’20, co-captain John Shuck ’17 and Mason Elizondo ’18.
Unfortunately, Elizondo was quickly defeated at No. 7. While J. Ruggiero claimed a 3–0 victory at No. 1, J. Shuck eventually fell to his opponent at No. 4, guaranteeing a Middlebury win. Means, the last player on court, won his match, and the final score stood at 5–4 in favor of Middlebury.
In the semifinal Saturday afternoon, the men lost 7-2 to Bates. No. 2 Fitzgerald, No. 4 C. Shuck, No. 6 W. Ruggiero, No. 8 Smith and No. 9 Ben Eisenberg ’19 were up first to step through the doors.
The match got off to a 1-1 start after Smith defeated his opponent in three games and W. Ruggiero fell in three. The next three matches were played on the heartstrings of the coaches and spectators.
Fitzgerald and C. Shuck battled side by side on courts one and two, both of their matches lasting five grueling games. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald fell 13-11 in the fifth, and Shuck lost his deciding game 14-12 . Eisenberg was close behind, succumbing in five games as well.
The Bobcats carried a 4-1 lead, the three dead-even matches having all gone their way. No. 1 J. Ruggiero, No. 3 Means, No. 5 J. Shuck and No. 7 Elizondo were up next, the Ephs needing four victories to win the match.
However, Means’ opponent produced several magical shots to seal the Bates victory. J. Ruggiero and Elizondo lost as well, but J. Shuck picked up a match for Williams.
J. Ruggiero said the loss to Bates was disheartening. “We came so far only to miss out on the NESCAC final by a few points,” he said.
Saturday morning, the men vanquished archrival Amherst in the first round.
No. 2 Fitzgerald, No. 4 C. Shuck, No. 6 W. Ruggiero, No. 8 Litvin and No. 9 Anand Butler ’19 were up first.
Fitzgerald finished first, dispatching of his opponent in three games. W. Ruggiero and C. Shuck won in three as well. Litvin finished next with a four-game win, while Butler triumphed in five hard games to seal an Eph victory.
No. 1 J. Ruggiero, No. 3 Will Means, No. 5 J. Shuck and No. 7 Elizondo were up next.
Unfortunately, Means fell to his athletic opponent in three, and Elizondo retired. However, J. Ruggiero and J. Shuck won their matches for a 7-2 final score.
Head Coach Zafi Levy ’01 said the team was slightly disappointed with its fourth-place finish. However, he appreciated the players’ efforts.
“We were in a position to beat both Bates and Middlebury but came short in both matches,” he said.
“We played hard and competed fantastically. We know we can do better and will continue to work in order to improve in the coming weeks.”
“Everyone delivered a solid performance at some point in the tournament, which was great to see,” J. Ruggiero added.
“We have Nationals in a few weeks, and our losses this weekend will certainly motivate us to train harder until then.”
Prior to the tournament, the men lost to Columbia on Jan. 27 and beat Wesleyan and Amherst on Jan. 28.
Ranked No. 17 nationally, they visit No. 8 Dartmouth at 5 p.m. today. before traveling to Harvard on Feb. 17 for the CSA National Team Championship.