Men's squash psyched for weekend match with Ephs

The first team on the Jeffs’ plate was the MIT Engineers, at the time ranked 31st in the nation. The 14th-ranked Jeffs finished them off thoroughly with a 9-0 sweep. Head Coach Peter Robson gave senior Michael Strong, who usually plays at the number-one spot, a break so that first-year David Fortunato could play in his first match of the year at the ninth spot, moving the rest of the ladder up one slot. Fortunato did not disappoint, allowing his Engineer foe only four points. Fellow first-year Andrew Slutsky dominated at the number-eight spot, sweeping his opponent 9-0 in all three games, and most of the matches followed suit. Junior Tyler Mixter allowed a stingy single point in three games and senior co-captain Brian Lawrence surrended two.

The only drama in the match occurred at the third spot in the rotation, where first-year Mark Rapisarda struggled, losing his first two games 3-9 and 9-10. Fortunately, he was able to rally, sweeping the next three games in heroic fashion: 10-8, 9-6 and 9-7. This breezy match was followed by another easy win over 44th-ranked Northeastern University. The Huskies are a newly-formed team headed by Amherst alumnus and former team captain Carlo Valdesolo ’03.

The Jeffs showed no pity for their former leader. Even with regularly playing sophomores Auloke Mathur and Peter Hatfield, senior Gifford Sommerkamp and Rapisarda joining Strong on the bench, the Jeffs still handed the Huskies an embarrassing loss. Sophomores Dale Du Preez and Craig McCready and junior Edward Schleyer stepped up as three of the six Jeffs to sweep their opponents 9-0 in three games.

These victories provided a much-needed boost in confidence for the Jeffs as they look forward to an exciting weekend. “If we compete well on the weekend, we give ourselves a tremendous opportunity to improve our ranking and make the season a success,” said Stu Landesberg ’07.

Amherst will play host to Saturday’s Little Three Championships, which will feature the season’s first matches against 10th-ranked archrival Williams College and Wesleyan University. The Cardinals should offer little resistance as they are ranked 27th in the latest College Squash Association rankings. The Ephs, however, should provide a challenge. The Jeffs have had little luck with teams ranked above them, but expectations are high. “We talk about the Williams match all year, and with our mixed results this season, it is especially big. Despite their higher ranking, we match up well and feel confident of our chances,” said Landesberg. “This is a great opportunity on our home courts.”

Co-captain Sommerkamp agreed. “This is our best team since I have been here, and [the match] is at home so I like our chances,” he said. “We must beat Williams in Little Threes or Nationals to be satisfied with the season.”

The matches start Saturday at 11 a.m. against Williams and continue against Wesleyan at 3:30, both at the Davenport Courts.