New Haven may be looking at below-freezing temperatures, but in its first series of matches after a month-long hiatus, the women’s squash team was on fire.
The Bulldogs (5-1) roared into action this past weekend, taking the court for the first time since their narrow loss to Penn (5-0)in the beginning of December and crushing five opponents in a row over the course of three days. Their path took them through Massachusetts, where they faced Amherst (5-2) and Williams College(7-4), before swinging through Hanover, N.H., on Saturday to play their second conference match of the season against Dartmouth (3-2). Sunday found the Elis at home again, taking on Stanford and Bowdoin (1-6). Through this hectic post-break schedule, the Bulldogs did not drop a single game, winning all five matches, 9-0.
“I think the team played really well this weekend,” Aly Kerr ’12 said. “Five matches in three days is pretty tough, and everyone did a great job and really committed to finishing the weekend out strong.”
On Friday, the No. 5 Bulldogs took the court against the No. 17 Lord Jeffs, and it didn’t take long until they had proved themselves more than ready for their Amherst foes. Led by Sarah Toomey ’11, who took down her opponent at No. 1 with a 10-8, 9-4, 9-7 victory, the squad gave up only a single game, and Kerr scored a shutout 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 shutout over her challenger at No. 5.
The Bulldogs took the momentum of their victory and ran with it, straight to No. 9 Williams. With Logan Greer ’11 in the No. 1 position, the Elis proceeded to defeat the Ephs 9-0, though their Williamstown opponents gave them a few tense moments.
Greer lost her first game to Williams junior Toby Eyre, 6-9, before rallying to take the next two, 9-7, 9-6. But Eyre would not give in and fought back, making it 2-2 with her 7-9 win before Greer finished the match with a close 10-8 victory in the fifth game.
The next day saw the Bulldogs playing their first conference match since Dec. 6, when they fell just short of Penn, losing 5-4. But they amended their conference record to 1-1 in short order, rolling over Dartmouth 9-0 without dropping a single game.
Greer again played at No. 1, taking out her opponent in a series of 9-4, 9-5, 9-2 wins. Meanwhile, No. 3 Alia Aziz ’10 cruised to a comfortable 9-0, 9-1, 9-2 victory, while team captain Tara Wadhwa ’09 dispatched of her No. 7 foe in similar style, winning 9-2, 9-1, 9-3. No. 5 Caroline Reigeluth ’11, after taking the first game 9-5, stayed cool to win the second 10-8 before topping her opponent in the final game 9-2. But while it’s nice to win in conference, Aziz said, the team does not approach those games any differently from non-conference matchups.
“I don’t think we really think too much about conference,” she said. “Obviously, we go into every match wanting to win. And in terms of Dartmouth, Williams is a little bit of a stronger school right now, so we were more worried about that match.”
After this victorious march through two other states, the Elis finally returned home on Sunday to play their last two matches of the weekend, against Stanford — whose squad was coached by Mark Talbott, brother of Yale head coach Dave Talbott — and Bowdoin. And once again, in an echo of Friday and Saturday, the Elis shut down first the Cardinal and then the Polar Bears to wrap up their powerhouse weekend.
Greer dropped the first game of her No. 1 match 9-10, but in the second game, she seized control of the match and did not relinquish it despite the formidable opposition from her Stanford opponent, junior Katy Brewster. The next three games fell to Greer, 9-6, 9-7, and 10-8. Alexandra Van Arkel ’12, playing at No. 6, also showcased her resilience – after dropping the first game 0-9, she snapped up the following three, 9-4, 9-6, 9-5. Wadhwa at No. 7 bounced back after a 5-9 loss in the first game, winning the final three 10-8, 9-0, 10-8, and the rest of the squad won their matches in three straight games. With Stanford dispatched, the squad turned to Bowdoin — and dropped just one game in the 9-0 shutout.
“I thought that a lot of [our victory] had to do with the fact that we came back early and we stayed here for a week,” Rhetta Nadas ’12 said. “We trained really hard, we focused, slept really well, ate really well, and did a lot of team stuff together. The team as a whole played well and kind of fed off each other. We were in the zone, and I think now we’re on a roll. There was just really good energy.”
Next weekend, the Bulldogs will face Cornell (3-3) and William Smith (4-3) in Ithaca, N.Y. But the team is looking more toward the match that follows — on Jan. 21, they will take on Trinity (4-0) in Hartford, a match in which they will try to put to use all of the momentum of the past few days, according to Aziz.
“Trinity is definitely going to be the tough one,” she said. “I think Cornell is strong, but we’re building up to the end of our season, and the season goes by very quickly, so we’re just trying to build up momentum for that big match.”