Yale women’s squash fell one victory short of the Howe Cup National Championship last season. This season the Elis don’t intend to let that happen again.
If the Ivy League scrimmage last weekend at Dartmouth is any indication of how the team will do this year, the Bulldogs have little reason to fear a repeat of last season. In Hanover, N.H. the Bulldogs defeated Harvard and Princeton en route to their first-ever win at the two-day event. The contests were close as Yale beat both the Tigers and the Crimson by scores of 5-4.
The Elis earned the victory despite losing top seed Michelle Quibell ’06 — the 2002-2003 Ivy League Rookie of the Year and All-Ivy Selection — to a sprained ankle. Quibell returned to the court for practice on Monday and Yale head coach Mark Talbott said she should be ready for the team’s season opener against Williams Dec. 3 at the Brady Squash Center in Payne Whitney.
The team was also without freshman standout Catherine McLeod ’07. McLeod, who was recruited from New Zealand, had yet to go through the NCAA Clearinghouse, and so was ineligible for last weekend’s meet. Every NCAA collegiate athlete has to submit transcripts and high school diplomas to the clearinghouse before they are allowed to compete in NCAA contests.
Talbott said McLeod will be eligible for the first match. McLeod won the World Junior Women’s Individual Squash Championship last August, which made her the top international recruit.
When asked if she felt any pressure as a freshman who would start as a high seed, the international champion replied with a definitive negative.
“No [I don't feel any pressure], not really,” she said.
Last season, the Elis finished with a record of 6-2 overall and 5-1 in conference play, with the only Ivy loss coming against the Crimson Feb. 19.
Yale finished second in the Ivy League behind Harvard, and was the runner up in the National Championships — also known as the Howe Cup — losing 9-0 to nationally ranked No. 1 Trinity in the finals only a day after beating Harvard 8-1 in the semis.
Along with Quibell, the Elis are also returning their other two All-Ivy selections — Amy Gross ’06 and Frances Ho ’05. Talbott said including McLeod, the team has a formidable top four on an already strong team.
“Those four are a notch above the rest of the team,” Talbott said.
Talbott said Yale has managed to get top recruits over the last two years. Like McLeod, the top recruits are frequently international. Four of the 16 Elis on this year’s squad are from abroad as well as all of Trinity’s starting nine.
Talbott said he believes this season’s team has the potential not only to win the Ivy League crown but also to contend with squash powerhouse Trinity for the National Championship.
“I think we have an excellent chance of winning the Ivy League if everyone stays healthy,” Talbott said.
Talbott said the biggest challenges will come against Trinity Jan. 21, Princeton Jan. 31, and Harvard Feb. 14.
Captain Devon Dalzell ’04 said the team is strong despite being young.
“What [the young members of the team] lack in age they have in experience,” Dalzell said.
Talbott said he expects a tough challenge ahead, but that there is reason to be optimistic.
“Yale, in their history, has never had a team like this,” Talbott said. “By far this is the best, deepest women’s squash team this school has ever had.”