CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — In the end it came down to the pair who had brought the Elis to this point two years ago. The women’s squash team was down, 4-3, against Trinity in the finals of the Howe Cup yesterday when Michelle Quibell ’06 and Amy Gross ’06 took the court at the same time to play for Yale’s third consecutive tournament and national titles. The showdown was at Harvard, but it seemed like the top-seeded Bantams had the home court advantage as a sizeable fan contingent that included their men’s squad filled the stands of the Murr Center.
In their final appearance for the Bulldogs (13-1, 11-1 Ivy), the two seniors won both matches to upset the top-seeded Bantams (11-1), 5-4, and cement Yale’s status as the preeminent team in collegiate squash. The victory was the third for the Elis in as many days, as they defeated No. 8 Williams Friday, 9-0, and No. 3. Harvard (8-2, 6-0) Saturday, 6-3, to advance to yesterday’s showdown against Trinity. After losing to the Cantabs in a heartbreaking 5-4 match last Wednesday that decided the Ivy title, the Bulldogs were out for revenge and achieved it in spectacular fashion.
Yale head coach Dave Talbott said it was fitting for Quibell and Gross, the two recruits who put Yale’s team on the map, to be the keys for clinching Sunday’s win.
“They came and built this program towards the national championship,” he said. “In their last team competition, to win it like that is very special. I’m glad to be a part of it. You see moments like that only a few times in a coaching career.”
Two-time defending individual champion Quibell defeated Trinity No. 1 Vaidheddi Reddy, 3-1, while captain Gross was still on court against freshman No. 4 Ashley Clackson. After winning the first game, 9-4, Gross dropped the second, 5-9, but then claimed a decisive 9-3 third game. Gross led, 8-2, in the third when the ball was hit out of the court. Instead of losing momentum, she was able to serve out the victory two minutes later, after warming up a new ball. Her Yale teammates rushed the court as a visibly upset Clackson watched in disbelief.
Gross said she performs well under pressure and felt that she was more fit and experienced than her opponent.
“It was a perfect end to an incredible four years,” she said. “I wanted to end the season for myself and the team on a positive note.”
No. 2 Miranda Ranieri ’08, No. 6 Kate Rapisarda ’07 and No. 8 Nicky Shiels ’07 rounded out the Bulldog victories against Trinity. Ranieri won, 3-1, against Larissa Stephenson, while Rapisarda and Shiels both defeated their opponents, 3-0. Catherine McLeod ’07 lost the first match of her Yale career at No. 3, which Talbott said may have temporarily increased the Bantams’ confidence at one point as they were up, 4-2.
After losing to Yale, 5-4, on Jan. 25, players said Trinity switched its six and seven seeds and eight and nine seeds for this showdown. Reddy moved back to No. 1, where she played last season, after defeating Gross at No. 4 in the last meeting.
“When we heard their line-up had switched, it was a positive thing, because we knew that we would get a chance to play other people,” Ranieri said. “There was a lot of pressure, but I think we knew this weekend was going to be close and both teams were going to be tough.”
The Bulldogs’ revenge against Harvard in the Howe Cup semifinals was particularly sweet after the Crimson broke the Elis’ winning streak, extending back to Dec. 3, 2003, last week in their final match of the regular season. Quibell, who was suffering from the flu and injury, lost to Harvard No. 1 Lily Lorentzen, 3-2, in the deciding match.
No. 7 Sarah Barenbaum said the Cantabs’ energy made them unstoppable last Wednesday.”
“They played an incredible game,” she said. “We really showed we were the better team by beating them on their home courts. It was incredible — the best feeling you can have.”
Quibell retired against Lorenzten when she was down, 2-1, on Saturday to save her strength for Sunday’s final. A Yale victory was already secure, as Ranieri and Rapisarda had come back to defeat Harvard’s Kyla Grigg and Lydia Williams after losing to them three days before. The two may meet again in next weekend’s individual championship in Amherst, Mass., to which the Elis will send their top 10 players.
Players said the Eli three-peat was particularly rewarding because they were underdogs for the first time in recent memory.
“To have a loss like Wednesday’s and be able to come back from it is very satisfying,” Gross said. “It made us more confident that we really are the best team out there.”