My friend Abby loves her away messages on AIM. Like most Yalies, she spends her time crafting the perfect message that oozes with sarcasm, humor, and wit. And like most Yalies, I spend my time reading people’s away messages, admiring their sarcasm, humor, and wit. But one day, as I was coasting through my buddies’ away messages, I came across Abby’s; it was a quote attributed to her squash coach Mark Talbott before a big match this past winter season: “You guys can do it. You are all a little crazy, good crazy, you know–like a little nutty. This team has a lot of character–and characters.”
The away message begged the question — “Who are these girls?”
I knew very little about squash at that point. After watching Yale crush the University of Pennsylvania 7-2 at the Bulldogs’ home opener, I knew I had discovered one of the most skilled teams on campus.
Ranked No. 3 in the nation, the women’s squash team finished second in the annual Howe Cup and was runner-up in the Ivy League. But what makes this team tick is not its athletic strength, finessed shot-making, or stylish look. No, this team is drawn together by Eminen’s “Lose Yourself,” 50 Cent’s “In the Club,” and Y-shaped cookies made by Devon Dalzell’s ’04 mother. This team is inspired by tradition and by friendship.
Many of these girls know each other from the pre-high school days of the Junior Circuit — a time when squash was not only competitive but also individualistic. Abby Epstein ’05 and Sarah Coleman ’05 not only faced each other in tournaments, but they went to St. Ann’s in Brooklyn together, too.
Amy Gross ’06 and Michelle Quibell ’06 also faced each other in the junior leagues. Amy first met Michelle at the Hunter Lott Tournament in Philadelphia when they were both 11. Michelle was at first intimidated by Amy: “My mom’s friend called Amy (the number one seed of the under 12’s) over and introduced us. I was so intimidated by her because she had her little posse that followed her around, and she was supposedly untouchable by any girl her age — I later found out this was true when she killed me 27-0.”
But Michelle wasn’t the only one to face Amy’s dominance. Abby recalls: “When I was about 12 years old, playing in one of my first tournaments, I played Amy Gross first round, and she was probably the number one seed, and I was the poor kid that they gave to the number one seed. She beat me in probably under 10 minutes; I didn’t get a single point off of her. We still joke about it now.”
Michelle grew up in the South, where I can attest, squash isn’t considered to be anything but part of Thanksgiving dinner. Her high school didn’t even have a squash team, so squash became part of her private life.
But at Yale, Abby, Sarah, Amy, and Michelle, became part of a team and a winning tradition. Together with eight other girls, they bring spice and pizzazz onto the court, as evident in their 8-1 victory over Harvard at the Howe Cup.
To them, squash is about having fun, eating pre-game meals in Morse Dining Hall, chatting about the day’s latest gossip in the locker room, and freshman teammates singing rap music in front of Gourmet Heaven. Compared to other college squash teams, the Yale women’s squash team exudes that something extra — the chemistry all teams wish to possess on the court, or as Abby says, “We have often been called ‘a party in a box.'”
This ‘party in the box’ often spills over into the weekend. The girls host numerous “squash parties,” where, according to Michelle, “we get together as a team and have an incredible time.” Michelle continues, “I’m not going to lie, the girls on the team are crazy, and when we get together, it is madness. Ask anyone who has witnessed a squash party, and they will probably tell you how crazy we get. No matter where we are, we have a great time.”
The girls’ squash team is one of the most under-represented sports teams at Yale in terms of newspaper coverage. Yet these girls are part of a team — one of those teams you rarely find in competitive sports. Their love for each other is genuine, their history stems from the Junior Circuit, and their parties are “crazy.”
The women’s squash team is comprised of 12 personalities that dominate the courts and the AIM away messages.