The Bulldogs entered the National Championship in search of the 2013 College Squash Association’s Howe Cup as the number five seed.
In the quarterfinals on Friday, No. 5 Yale (11-5) faced No. 4 Trinity (15-2), a team they had lost to three weeks prior in a close 5-4 match. This time, the Elis were without No. 6 Kim Hay ’14, who suffered a season ending injury. Even though the team tried to make up for the loss of Hay with its depth, Yale could not win the close matches. The Bantams emerged victorious again, this time by a larger margin of 7-2, and captured seven wins in the first eight matches to secure their place in the semifinals, relegating the Elis to a consolation semifinal against Brown.
“The team was disappointed to not get past Trinity to give themselves a shot at the National Title. The top five teams were so evenly matched, as evident by the results this weekend,“ head coach Dave Talbott said. “Princeton went into the Championships ranked No. 1 and finished fourth. Having lost 5-4 to both Princeton and Trinity in the regular season, the women felt they would be right in the mix to win this weekend.”
The scoreboard does not tell the whole story of the Elis’ valiant battle against the Bantams, team members said. In front of a loyal hometown crowd in New Haven and at the No. 9 position, Katie Harrison ’13 fell 3-1 despite fierce play. Always returning to center court, Harrison’s agility kept her in the match even after dropping the first and second games. Capitalizing on her opponent’s errors, she battled back in a must-win third game, triumphing 12-10. But Trinity would not let up and won the fourth game 11-6, putting the Bantams up 1-0.
It was up to the tenacious Issey Norman-Ross ’15 in the sixth spot to try to make it an even match, but she lost a close five-setter to Trinity’s No.6 Natalie Babjukova 3-2. Shihui Mao ’15 in the third spot gave Yale its first point of the day in a four-game match. After dropping the first game 11-6, Mao’s precise placement of shots in the second gave her an early lead and an 11-6 win. The third game was closer, but Mao remained on top with a score of 11-8. In the fourth and final game, mental power and technical ability propelled Mao to win 11-3, breathing life back into the Bulldogs.
“Losing the first game really woke me up, and I knew that I had to change my game plan to win. I focused on being confident and getting my shots to the backcourt. I knew that I needed to win [to give us] a shot to beat Trinity, especially since I was first on court, and that a win would really help motivate the team overall,” Mao said.
Though Trinity went on to record six unanswered points, the individual matches against Trinity were all fairly close.
At No. 8, Annie Ballaine ’16 put up a fight with tough shots to the back corners of the court, but the Bantams won 3-0 to take the match. In the fifth spot, Lilly Fast ’14 came out strong with an early lead and win in the first game, but her opponent recovered from the loss to take the next three games and the match. The Bantams continued their pursuit in the No. 2 spot against team captain Katie Ballaine ’13. Neck and neck in the second game, Ballaine’s championship effort gave her the 11-8 win. Continuing to play with drive and emotion, Ballaine won the third game 11-6 to put her up 2-1. However, the Bantams outlasted Ballaine to take the last two games 11-6 and 11-8 to win the match.
Despite strong play, Anna Harrison ’15 and Gwen Tilghman ’14 were taken down at the seventh and fourth spots, respectively, to put Trinity up 7-1.
It was No. 2 Millie Tomlinson ’14 at the first spot who triumphed. After losing to Trinity’s Kanzy El Defrawy in the decisive match at their last meeting, Tomlinson raced out of the starting blocks with purpose, defeating El Defrawy in a four-game match.
After defeating Yale, the Bantams moved onto the semifinals on Saturday against No. 1 Princeton. With the National Championship out of reach, the Bulldogs played in a consolation semifinal against No. 8 Brown on Saturday.
It was only last week that the Elis defeated the Bears 9-0, and they did so in a similar dominating fashion on Saturday with a clean sweep. Yale’s lineup was similar to Friday’s, with the addition of Georgia Blatchford ’16 at No. 9.
In the match for fifth place on Sunday, the Bulldogs faced No. 6 Cornell. In regular season, Yale topped the Big Red 6-3, and in the consolation final, the Elis did it again, with the same score. Only at spots two, four and nine did Cornell gain points.
Yale finishes the 2013 season ranked No. 5 in the country, making it 12 straight years that the Bulldogs have finished in the top-5.
“It was hard without [Kim] Hay, but right now, [we] are really happy with what we have done and hope to come back and win it next year,” Mao said.
The CSA Individual Championships will take place at Trinity College from March 1 to 3. Tomlinson will try to win her second Individual National Championship in three years.