On Dec. 4, Yale’s nationally-ranked No. 1 women’s squash team demonstrated its consistency.
With all nine of last year’s starters returning, the Bulldogs trounced No. 5 University of Pennsylvania 9-0 without dropping a game in all nine matches. Aside from a single seven point effort, a Quaker never took more than four points off of a Yale player in any game. Last year, the Elis went undefeated on their way to claiming both the National Championship and the Ivy League title.
Although players were happy about the win, many saw it as a matter of course.
“It was what we expected,” Michelle Quibell ’06 said. “When we played them in scrimmages, we did really well against them.”
However, Quibell was quick to temper this sentiment with caution.
“I guess we have high expectations,” Quibell said, “but we’re still not going in there too confident — we could have an off day and lose to some teams.”
Quibell, who played in the one spot for Yale last year, won the 2004 College Squash Association Individual Championship. She is currently the top-ranked player in the nation, followed by teammates Catherine McLeod ’07 in second and Amy Gross ’06 in third.
Team captain Frances Ho ’05 emphasized the match’s importance in terms of setting the tone for the season.
“It felt really good because we wanted to go out there strong for the first match of the season,” she said. “We wanted to focus and get our business done — we’re all happy.”
One thing that is different from last year’s team is the head coach. Dave Talbott, longtime coach of the men’s team, took over the reigns in August after his brother and former women’s coach Mark Talbott left for Stanford. Ho said that the team has avoided comparing the two brothers, and, so far, things are working out as well as anyone could hope.
“Right now, it’s really gelling together,” she said.
Talbott deflects most of the credit for the team’s early success to his players.
“This is a specially talented group, and when it runs its cycle in a couple of years, we’ll have a difficult time putting together this type of team again,” he said of what he calls the “most talented group of women squash players on one team.”
The coaching change has brought its share of benefits and obstacles, Talbott said.
“I have two very good assistants now, but it’s been a big change — for the kids, and for myself,” he said. “Off the court, it has been more of an adjustment for the women, because they were recruited by my brother.”
The coaching change was announced in August.
On the court, the women’s team has profited from practicing with the men’s team, Talbott said.
“We drill some with the men, and that’s helping some of the better women’s players,” he said.
Although he says this model is not uncommon in the Ivy League — five of the seven teams have one coach for both teams — he said he hopes the combined practices will make the women tougher players.
Ho agreed, saying that the team’s work with the men’s team has obviously raised its level of play.
“This team is built to win now. We’d like to maximize that opportunity,” said Talbott. “I’m just trying to keep this machine running.”
His response is indicative of the team’s temper — hopeful, optimistic and quietly focused on continuing its national prominence.