For the Trinity College women’s squash team, the No. 1 Elis are the stuff of nightmares.
Last January, the then-No. 1 Bantams walked into Brady Squash Center as two-time defending national champions with a 29-match unbeaten streak to their name. The Bulldogs proved themselves more than equal to Trinity’s challenge, and served the Bantams their first loss in three years. The Elis never looked back last season, finishing undefeated and wresting the possibility of a third consecutive national title from Trinity’s grasp.
As Yale (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) hits the road to face the Bantams at the George A. Kellner Squash Center in Hartford, it is time to see if last year’s upset still haunts No. 2 Trinity.
Led by Michelle Quibell ’06, Amy Gross ’06 and Catherine McLeod ’07, the undefeated Elis will attempt to keep Trinity at bay. Despite Yale’s exceptional success so far this season, the Elis recognize Trinity’s talent — and refuse to take a win for granted.
“I feel like our team is pretty confident going into the match,” Quibell said. “At the same time, we don’t want to take this team lightly because they have the potential to be a problem. If we play well, we should beat them.”
Perhaps the most frightening figure in Trinity’s Eli-induced nightmares is Quibell. Last year, she met Amina Helal with the match scores tied at four apiece. With the outcome determining the winner of the competition, Helal notched the first game for the Bantams, but Quibell rallied and won the next three, securing the match and capturing the victory for Yale.
This season, Quibell is no less intimidating. Last weekend, she repeated as champion of the Constable Invitational held at Princeton University. Quibell defeated Gross in an all-Eli final to clinch the win. The defending individual national champion is undefeated so far this season, and has lost only one game in competition — to Gross.
But even if the Bantams can force Quibell out of their dreams, the Trinity players will be kept tossing and turning by the rest of the Eli squad.
Yale did not lose a single player from last year’s top nine, and gained a formidable competitor in Miranda Ranieri ’08, who stepped in to fill the number four spot. Quibell is joined atop the national rankings by Gross and McLeod, who command the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively.
“Our biggest strength is our depth,” Quibell said. “We have a really strong top, middle and bottom. In combination, it’s really unbeatable.”
Trinity will try to counter the Eli attack with Vaidehi Reddy and Lynn Leong, who have both seen time as the number one seed for the Bantams.
Quibell defeated Reddy in the semifinal of the Constable Invitational last weekend. Reddy and Leong follow McLeod in the national rankings, rounding out the top five.
In anticipation of the Trinity matchup, Yale has continued to maintain a strict practice regimen. The Elis took a little time off after last weekend’s intense competition, and then got right back into the game, focusing on individual weaknesses, overall fitness and honing basic skills.
“We’ve taken a few days of rest so that we don’t overtrain and don’t burn out,” Gross said. “We’ve tried to make sure that we’re careful and we’re trying to work on everything we possibly can.”
For the freshmen, though, who heard about Trinity’s prowess all through high school, the legendary squash powerhouse may be a bit more intimidating than it is for those who witnessed last year’s upset.
Despite this, Ranieri said the rookie Elis’ intimidation by Trinity does not go beyond rookie jitters.
“We’re prepared,” she said. “We’ve been working hard and training hard and I think we’ll be able to do well against them.”