Women’s squash readies to defend title

The two-time defending national champion women’s squash team has a lot riding on its shoulders. Last year, the Elis went 13-0 to cement their reputation as the preeminent squad in the country. They didn’t disappoint in their opening exhibition this past weekend, breezing by two Ivy competitors that the Elis will face again in their upcoming season.

In the Ivy League Scrimmages, played at the Brady Squash Center this past weekend, Yale defeated Penn, 7-2, Harvard, 6-3 and an all-star team comprised of players from all seven schools in attendance, 9-0. Although the gap slightly narrowed from a year ago, when the Bulldogs dominated Penn, 9-0, and Princeton, 8-1, in the same competition, players said the results did not reflect the total depth of the collegiate field.

Lauren McCrery ’07 said it was difficult to get a feel for the competition because Harvard did not send its top player and because several of Princeton’s strongest were sidelined due to injuries.

“I feel like we had a pretty solid win against Harvard that gave us a boost of confidence and encouragement,” she said. “We know Princeton has a lot of depth, but we didn’t play them at all. You can’t get a feel for a team if some of their top girls aren’t there.”

Last year, the Crimson and the Tigers nipped at the Elis’ heels all year and finished just behind them in the Ivy standings to take second and third place in the league, respectively. The undefeated Bulldogs won the Ivy title, the national championship and the Howe Cup. Michelle Quibell ’06, who plays at number one for the Elis, also clinched the individual championship for the second year in a row.

Quibell, who did not play in the scrimmages because she was at another tournament, said the exhibition allowed the Elis to glimpse who might be their main challenger for the Ivy and national crowns this year.

“We thought Harvard was going to be our biggest competition, but it turns out Princeton might be,” she said.

Although Harvard defeated Princeton in their face-off, the injury-ridden Tigers still have more strength in their order, many players said. The results were further complicated because the “all-star team” was composed of bottom-level players who do not normally get a chance to compete. Columbia is the only Ivy League school that does not field a women’s squash team, so to fill the eighth berth in the tournament, the all-stars take on members of their own teams.

Players said the squad feels confident that it can maintain its reputation as the team to beat in women’s squash. The Bulldogs’ top three players — Quibell, Amy Gross ’06 and Catherine McLeod ’07 — are all returning veterans, and the team has added three new freshmen to its roster, two of whom are in the top nine that typically play during the season.

“We’re at a really good place,” Quibell said. “We still have another month and a half before our season begins. Most of our matches take place in January and February, but the team is already working very hard.”

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