Coming off losses to Harvard in a scrimmage last weekend, Yale’s squash teams are anxious to dive into matches that count for the regular season.
The men’s and women’s squash teams are preparing to kick off their official season Saturday with matches against Franklin & Marshall in the morning and Haverford in the afternoon. Yale’s teams — both Ivy League champions last year — have been training since late August. Yale women’s squash ranked first in the nation last year and the men’s team ranked second. Head coach David Talbott said the players are “pretty wound up” to get into the regular season.
“Kids start playing the first day they get back,” Talbott said. “It’s three months of pretty much playing every day. They’re excited to play a match that counts.”
While Franklin & Marshall and Haverford are Division III teams, Talbott said F&M has a stronger squash program than Haverford. The F&M men’s team finished eighth nationally last year, while the women finished 17th.
Talbott said Yale is confident of its strength going into both matches, but it will not take any match in the season lightly.
“We’ll put in all of our top [players] against F&M, and Haverford is a chance to play some of our bottom players higher,” Talbott said. “It’s an opportunity to play with our lineup a little bit.”
Women’s squash member Carolyn Brown ’13 said she anticipates the team will play well this weekend, but she added that she does not want to underestimate her opponents.
“The women’s team is very strong this year, so our chances this weekend are pretty good just going by general rankings and results for the past few years,” Brown said.
But the neither the men’s nor the women’s team’s strength could not pull a victory against Harvard last weekend at the Ivy Scrimmages.
Three players said they were disappointed with the loss to Harvard, as the annual Ivy League Scrimmage tournament helps teams size up their competition before the season begins.
The Yale men’s team beat Columbia easily and overpowered Cornell 8–1 in the semi finals, but Harvard proved to be a tougher opponent than in previous years. Last year, Harvard fell to the Bulldogs 4–5 in both in the national and Ivy League finals.
“We were facing a pretty strong Harvard team in the finals. We haven’t lost to them ever since the seniors have been around,” men’s team captain Ryan Dowd ’12 said.
Yet Dowd said he is optimistic about the future, despite the 5–4 loss.
The loss, he said, will help motivate the team to prepare for the matches that count.
“Hopefully down the road [the loss] will be a blessing and we’ll be motivated to work harder,” he said.
The women’s team is anxious to start the season on a strong foot, Talbott added.
Brown said that while women’s squash may have lost the scrimmage against Harvard, the Elis will be stronger during the official season.
“Getting into the regular season things really do change around,” Brown said. “People who were injured before are coming back now. The whole dynamic will really change and it’ll be interesting to see what happens,” Brown said.
Talbott added that the team’s four freshmen will develop as the season progresses.
Last year, the women’s team graduated three seniors. Although squash teams need only nine ranked players, the women’s team usually has 14, Talbott said. This year, however, there are 18 members. “We’ve got a huge facility, and I’ve got the ability to carry a fair amount of players [on the team],” Talbott said.
He added that he expects the younger players to move up from the 13, 14 and 15 positions to top nine spots in a year or two.
The men’s team has three new players, Sam Shleifer ’15, Joseph Roberts ’15 and Huw Robinson ’15. Roberts and Robinson are the younger brothers of John Roberts ’12 and Hywel Robinson ’13.
Dowd said the men’s team is in good shape after an intensive preseason of running and track workouts. Now the team is moving towards more squash-specific drills, he added.
“We train and work together for so many hours,” Eric Caine ’14 said. “We’re all comfortable pushing each other and being honest when it comes to areas that we need to improve.”
The Bulldogs take on F&M at 10 a.m. in Lancaster, Penn. and play Haverford at 4 p.m. in Philadelphia.