February 26, 2004

Squash to Nationals

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The men’s squash team will head to New Haven, Conn. this weekend to compete in the annual national championships. Cornell will play in the tournament’s top division and vie for the Potter Cup. The Red is coming off an impressive 8-4 season and will be the No. 6 seed in the tourney.

The level of play will be intense as Cornell begins the tournament tomorrow against No. 3 Yale.

“Yale will be pumped up,” head coach Scott Stoneburgh said. “They’re a very strong team.”

The Red faced off against the Elis in January, and lost 9-0. Yale has enjoyed a 10-2 season, and should find playing at home to be a big help this weekend.

Noting Yale’s home-court advantage, Stoneburgh has told his players to “not feel too much pressure in the big matches.”

The coach added that the Red’s recent “decisive” victories should give the team a boost.

Only the top eight teams in the nation compete for the Potter Cup. All the Ivies, with the exception of Columbia and Brown, will join Cornell in the “A” level division. Trinity College, the top team in the nation, and last year’s champion, will hope to defend its title. The top bracket is rounded out by Stoneburgh’s alma mater, the University of Western Ontario. Overall, 40 teams will play in five separate divisions.

Cornell began its 2003-04 season with a win against Ancient Eight rival Penn. But the squashers faced a difficult time in conference play, losing to national powerhouses Harvard and Princeton, 9-0. The Red’s toughest loss of the season came against Dartmouth, which narrowly beat the squashers, 5-4.

The team fared better against No. 9 Williams and No. 11 Amherst College, beating both teams 9-0 in away matches. Cornell’s most recent meet was against Hobart College, where the Red won in dominating fashion, 9-0.

Cornell also opened last year’s national tournament with a match against Yale. The Red lost that match, 7-2, but the squashers went on to win two consolation games against Penn and Western Ontario.

Cornell has been led this season by sophomore Matt Serediak, a first team All-Ivy selection last year. Serediak, who plays at the No. 1 ladder position, will likely face off against Yale’s Julian Illingworth. Illingworth is ranked among the nation’s top five individual players. The two played against each other in last year’s tournament, with Serediak winning a hard-fought 3-2 contest. For his win, Serediak was given the team’s Match of the Season Award.

But every game in the lineup counts equally, and for Cornell to have a successful tournament, it will need strong performances throughout its ladder.

Sophomore William Cheng has played at the two spot of the lineup this year. Cheng went 3-0 against a good Dartmouth team in January, and against Hobart, Cheng gave up only six points his entire match.

Ben Bernstein, who has played at the three spot this year, can “definitely come through for us” according to Stoneburgh, who added that this is the best “weekend for that to happen.”

Stoneburgh noted the leadership of co-captain Mike Delany. According to the coach, Delany “creates results.” He added the that the junior has been a strong “rock” for the team this year.

Stoneburgh said he has seen great progress this season from all the squashers.

“It’s satisfying to see the improvement,” he said, noting how “determined” his players have been to get better.

He added that he’s seen a “night and day difference” in XXsophomoreXX Matt Greenberg’s game. Greenberg has gone undefeated in Cornell’s last five matches.

Geoff Fong, the team’s only senior, has also played well of late, and Stoneburgh noted that this is Fong’s last weekend to “play the best squash he can.”

Rohit Gupta, who began the season at the eight spot, has shown “phenomenal” improvement according to Stoneburgh. Since moving up the ladder, the freshman has been “very competitive playing at the six spot,” the coach said.

Stoneburgh has also emphasized the importance of the lower ladder positions. Ben Stokes, Nick Raho, and Ted Hill have all played well recently, and Stoneburgh added that these spots are “crucial” for the Red.

Facing Yale in New Haven will be Cornell’s biggest challenge this season. But Stoneburgh is confident in his team.

“It would really be a big disappointment if we didn’t win some matches this weekend,” he said.

Archived article by Ted Nyman