Over the weekend, seven players from the women’s squash team (13-5, 4-3 Ivy) participated in the College Squash Association Individual Championships, held at Trinity College.
Four Bulldogs — Millie Tomlinson ’14, team captain Katie Ballaine ’13, Shihui Mao ’15 and Gwen Tilghman ’14 — competed in Ramsay Division, the top draw, and the other three — Lilly Fast ’14, Issey Norman-Ross ’15 and Annie Ballaine ’16 — competed in the Holleran Division. With all three players in the second draw making the third round and Tomlinson making the semifinals, team members said the Elis finished the championships on a strong note.
Leading the way for Yale was No. 2 Tomlinson, a player who is no stranger to the CSA Individual Championships. In her freshman year, Tomlinson won the title, and last year she finished second to Harvard’s Amanda Sohby.
Tomlinson won her first match of the weekend in a three-game contest against Trinity’s Sachika Balvani (11-5, 11-2, 11-6), but due to an unfortunate main draw, Tomlinson was pitted against her teammate, Mao, in the second round. Mao had scored a solid three-game win over Princeton’s Nicole Bunyan in the first round (11-6, 11-8, 11-7), improving from her narrow victory in five games in the regular season. In the end, Tomlinson came out on top, winning in three games (11-9, 11-4, 11-7) to advance to the third round.
“Playing a teammate is hard in any context, as it’s difficult to remain competitive,” said Mao, who would lose her next match in the second round of consolations. “However, it was fairly easy to do so with Millie because we both just wanted to get a good game from each other and practice our shots in preparation for the next match, as we would have matches regardless if we won or lost.”
In the quarterfinals, Tomlinson faced Princeton’s No. 7 Elizabeth Eyre in what proved to be the closest match of the weekend for Tomlinson. Tomlinson took the first game 11-9, but Eyre responded to take the second 11-9. Keeping Tomlinson under control, Eyre won the third game, but Tomlinson fought back in the fourth to win 11-7. In the fifth and final game, Tomlinson notched an 11–6 win.
Facing Trinity’s Kanzy El Defrawy, with whom Tomlinson split regular season and Howe Cup matches with, Tomlinson advanced to the semifinals. After losing a tight third game, the Bulldogs fell in four.
“This was a tough loss for Millie, who was hoping for a rematch with the Crimson’s Sohby in the finals,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “She had a great season with her only losses being to Sohby, who is undefeated in college squash, and El Defrawy, who Millie split with during the season.”
Ranked No. 28, captain Ballaine faced Cornell’s No. 9 Daniel Letourneau in the first round. After dropping the first two games 11-6 and 11-4, Ballaine fought back to win the third 13-11 to stay in the match. Despite her determination, Ballaine fell in the fourth, 11-8. In the second round of consolations, Ballaine overcame Dartmouth’s No. 30 Corey Schafer in five games, but she fell — again in five — in the third consolation round to No. 20 Jaime Laird of Cornell.
In the Holleran Division, all three Elis made it to the round of 16, and No. 41 Norman-Ross, the most successful, made it to the quarterfinals. The third round was not as favorable for the Bulldogs, as only Norman-Ross emerged victorious. Playing Princeton’s Hallie Dewey, Norman-Ross came out of the starting blocks slower than usual, losing the first two games 11-8 and 11-9. With her title hopes on the line, she changed her game plan and stayed focused on her strengths. She won three consecutive games to take the match. In the quarterfinals, Norman-Ross faced Princeton’s No. 34 Alexis Saunders. Norman-Ross battled back from a two-game deficit to bring the match to a fifth and deciding game, but ultimately, Saunders got the best of Norman-Ross with an 11-9 win.
While the end result is not what the Bulldogs and coach Talbott had in mind — winning the Ivy title — there are already hopes of a promising 2013-’14 season.
“Close all year, the team is determined to come back strong and win the championship next year. [Tomlinson’s] close loss in the semi-finals this weekend was indicative of the women’s season: so close, but unable to win the critical points this year,” Talbott said. “[Both] this weekend and this season show that the team has the talent to regain a championship. They just need to continue to work hard, stay focused and keep all the key players healthy.”
This was the third consecutive season that Tomlinson has finished in the top five in the country.