The women of Eli squash completed their undefeated season with a 9-0 bludgeoning of Brown on the road Tuesday while gearing up for this weekend’s Howe Cup at the Brady Squash Center.
The No. 1 Bulldogs (11-0, 7-0 Ivy) dropped only one game in the 9-0 defeat of No. 7 Brown (4-6, 1-5). In previous contests against lower-ranked opponents like the Bears, Yale head coach Mark Talbott has sat many of his top nine players in order to give lower-seeded players more experience on the court. But in the match against Brown, Talbott used most of his top nine so as to ensure an easy victory and an undefeated regular season.
“We just wanted to make sure we didn’t lose that match after we’d already captured the Ivy title,” Talbott said. “It was a good win and it was pretty relaxed — a fairly easy victory. But it was kind of a good warm-up for this weekend.”
This Friday, 29 teams will congregate at the Brady Squash Center for the annual Howe Cup team championship. The top eight teams will compete for the Howe Cup itself. Yale is slated to face No. 8 Williams (10-4) in the first round. If the Bulldogs move beyond the first round, they will play the winner of the No. 4 Harvard (5-3, 4-2) and No. 5 Pennsylvania (8-4, 3-3) draw. The Elis hope to move beyond the second round to the finals on Sunday, when the expected competition is No. 2 Trinity (7-1), coming out of a bracket that also includes No. 3 Princeton, No. 6 Dartmouth and No. 7 Brown.
The Elis are cautiously optimistic that they will make it to Sunday to meet Trinity. Yale’s seventh seed, Kate Rapisarda ’07, who has not lost a game the entire season, said the Bulldogs do not have the pleasure of being underdogs anymore, unlike when they went into regular season matches against Trinity and Harvard on Jan. 20 and Feb. 14, respectively.
The Elis lost the final meetings against both teams last season, including an 8-1 loss to Trinity in the Howe Cup finals on Feb. 16, 2003 and a 5-4 loss to the Cantabs four days later which gave Harvard the Ivy League crown.
“We just can’t go in too cocky because now we aren’t going in as the underdogs anymore,” Rapisarda said. “Which we’ve had working to our advantage.”
Eli two spot Amy Gross ’06, who lost her last match against Trinity while returning from a leg injury, knows that Yale is a target now.
“I feel like everyone wants to beat us now. Everyone is gunning for us,” Gross said. “It’s different [now]. We do have something to lose.”
At the same time, Gross feels some have not been giving the Elis the respect they deserve. She said she looks forward to proving that the regular season victory over Trinity was no fluke.
“There are people out there that are like ‘Trinity wasn’t training or they weren’t prepared,’ ” Gross said. “But what it comes down to is we want to show that we are the best team out there. We want to prove to everyone in squash that Yale is a powerhouse — Yale is the team to beat this year.”
This season’s contest against Trinity came down to Eli top seed Michelle Quibell ’06, who beat out Trinity’s Amina Helal in four games. Quibell defeated Helal again a week later at the Constable individual tournament. Over the last two seasons, Quibell and Helal have been battling for the top spot in the nation’s collegiate squash individual rankings. This year, Quibell has dominated in the head-to-head matches and currently holds the number one ranking. If the match comes down to Quibell again, she believes she will be ready for it.
“I’m excited about it,” Quibell said. “I’m at least trying not to be nervous about it. Of course, there are going to be some nerves.”
But Rapisarda said whether or not Quibell’s match is the final one, the whole team shares the weight of victory or defeat.
“To take the pressure off Michelle a little bit — one of the nice things about squash is that everyone’s match is just as important as the next person’s,” Rapisarda said. “We’re relying on everyone equally. Everyone has to play their match — take the attitude that their match is the deciding match.”
Talbott said he has been stressing the mental part of the game more than the physical lately.
“I think a lot of times, in these big matches, people just get way too uptight and emotional during the matches, and that hurts your performance,” Talbott said. “[We’ve been] talking a lot about what everybody is feeling and thinking, and that helps. Everybody just stays relaxed.”