After a grueling two-hour practice last Wednesday the women of Eli squash went on to dismantle No. 10 Amherst by a score of 9-0 in which the Bulldogs surrendered only one game.
The Elis had such confidence going into the match that along with the tough practice, the top four players sat out to give lower-ranked players experience. Frances Ho ’05 — who usually goes into the fifth slot — played at the top spot against the Lord Jeffs. Ho dropped the only game of the day in a four-game victory over Amherst All-American soccer star Ashley Harmeling. The most obvious sign of the Eli dominance came at the 10th spot, where Yale’s Abby Epstein ’05 did not give up a single point in her 3-0 victory.
Still, the Bulldogs took the Amherst match as an opportunity to improve their play. Kate Rapisarda ’07 — who usually plays at the seventh spot but played as the third seed on Wednesday — said Amherst was surprisingly good.
“Actually they’re pretty solid for a small school like Amherst,” Rapisarda said. “Their number one [gave] Frances [Ho] a good game.”
Captain Devon Dalzell ’04, who played at the sixth spot, felt the team members did well in utilizing any opportunity to develop their games, regardless of the opponent.
“I think we keep each other motivated,” Dalzell said. “If nothing less, it’s a chance to practice shots that we need to work on. We don’t get as psyched as we do for Princeton and Harvard, but we get psyched up just to try to beat them as solidly as we can.”
Yale head coach Mark Talbott said he told his team to play hard not just for an easy victory, but also out of respect for the other team.
“I tell them to try as hard as they can,” Talbott said. “And if they can win 27-0, to go ahead and do it; win every point.”
Talbott said he believes arrogance is not only disrespectful to the opponent, but detrimental to one’s play. He went on to say hubris was never something he was in his time as a professional squash player.
“I think it shows a lot of respect for your opponents if you can play your hardest,” Talbott said. “I don’t like people who are cocky, and I was never cocky in my career, and it always bothers me if players act cocky out there, and so I try and tell them to beat them as badly as they can because I think it really shows a lot of respect for your opponent.”
Talbott said Amherst was admittedly one of the weaker opponents the Elis have faced this season, and he understood his team might not gets as pumped up for this match.
“Obviously this is not one of the stronger teams we play this year,” Talbott said. “But it’s still good experience for the lower-ranked players.”
Next up for the Elis is No. 8 Brown (4-4, 1-4 Ivy) in Providence this weekend. In its four losses this year, the Bears has been defeated handily by No. 3 Princeton, No. 5 Penn, and No. 6 Dartmouth — all teams the Elis have beaten easily this season. In last year’s meeting on Feb. 11, 2003 the Elis blanked the Bears 9-0.
Talbott plans to reinstitute most of his starting line-up for the Brown match, with the exception of the top two Eli seeds — top seed Michelle Quibell ’06 and Amy Gross ’06 at the second spot. Rapisarda said the Bears are not as strong this year as they have been in years past.
“Brown has been good in the past,” Rapisarda said. “But this year they’re just really disorganized.”
By the time the Elis head off against Harvard on Feb. 14, which will likely be the deciding match for the national championship, Quibell and Gross will have had a two-week break. But Talbott does not believe the long rest from competitive play will be a problem for his top two players.
“Well, it doesn’t help,” Talbott said. “But these girls are so geared towards trying to win the national championship that they’re working really hard.”