This year’s Lord Jeffs had hearts and minds set on beating the Ephs and upsetting this season’s unsettling trend. Previously, the Jeffs had seemed all too content in staying at number 14 in the nation, losing to all teams ranked above them and thrashing all teams ranked below. This weekend was a chance to climb a few rungs by taking down the 10th-ranked Ephs.
The Jeffs leaped to a promising start against the Ephs. Sophomore Auloke Mathur took his first two games at the second court in commanding fashion, winning both by scores of 9-6. Senior co-captain Brian Lawrence, who has played outstanding squash all season, also took his first two games, as did Andrew Slutsky ’08 in the eight and nine spots, respectively. The Ephs battled back, snatching a pair of three-set wins from Stu Landesberg ’07 and Mark Rapisarda ’08 at fourth and seventh respectively. Lawrence was not ebbed by the Ephs’ only upsurge and swept his opponent away in the third game, 9-4. Lawrence’s “rock-like” performance and leadership during the season has been inspiring for the Jeffs.
“Lawrence has had a great season, and has provided us with excellent leadership both in words and in his actions,” said Mathur, who battled his match to the end, managing to score seven points in the fourth set but finally succumbing in the fifth. “I got off to a great start, but couldn’t keep the momentum to end the match. My opponent fought back hard and well, and played to my weaknesses.”
Slutsky shared a similar trajectory, winning his first two games with apparent ease before losing the critical third game, 8-10. Slutsky could not rally, and lost the next two 1-9 and 2-9. “I had my opponent backed into a corner in the first two games and then in the third I started to lose focus and with my focus went the match,” said Slutsky. “If I had just continued to play my game the results would have been different.”
In the fifth and sixth spots, drama was high, with Peter Hatfield ’07 and Tyler Mixter ’06 battling back after losing their first games. Mixter took his Eph to 10 points twice in five games and lost his last game by only one point. Hatfield rebounded from a 0-9 defeat in the first game to snag the next two before falling to a close defeat. Number-one player Michael Strong ’05 was yet another of the five Jeffs to take his Eph to five games. He was able to clinch the second and fourth games and stayed very competitive with his opponent throughout the match, losing his last game 7-9.
“The main thing the team’s performance showed is that the our full potential has yet to be achieved,” said Slutsky. “It’s easy to see that the match could have easily been a 6-3 victory for us.” Despite the tough loss, the Jeffs kept their heads to serve the Cardinals an easy 9-0 sweep. On Monday, Amherst lost 9-0 to third-ranked Yale University.
Starting on Feb. 25, Amherst seeks redemption at the Collegiate Squash Association Team Championships, where the team will play in the same division as Williams. “Williams has and always will be our team to beat,” said Mathur. “I think we have the talent and capability to do it, and right now the team is on the brim, and ready to erupt at Nationals.”