The best Yale squash had to offer was not enough this weekend at the College Squash Association Individual Championships.
In action at Trinity College in Hartford, Yale’s No. 1 women’s player and the tournament’s No. 4 seed Michelle Quibell ’06 led the way, reaching the semifinals before falling to eventual tournament champion Amina Helal. On the men’s side, team No. 1 Julian Illingworth ’06 had his title hopes dashed in the quarterfinals, while team No. 2 Anshul Manchanda ’04, a first-team All-American last year, did some damage in the consolation draw after a tough first-round match.
Quibell’s matches against Helal earlier in the season were close, both requiring five games, including a victory at Trinity on Jan. 21.
But Quibell could not keep up with Helal on Saturday night, as the defending national champion and Trinity star did not drop a game, winning 9-3, 9-4, 9-0.
“Amina [Helal] was just on,” said Frances Ho ’05, the No. 11 seed in the tournament. “She was just playing phenomenally.”
Quibell had built up momentum in the early rounds, winning her first three matches without dropping a game.
Amy Gross ’06, the team’s No. 2 player and the tournament’s No. 7 seed, reached the quarterfinals but fell to the tournament’s other eventual finalist, the University of Pennsylvania’s Runa Reta, the No. 2 seed. Reta also defeated team captain Gina Wilkinson ’03 in the round of 16.
After a month-long stretch that included matches against Princeton, Harvard, Brown and other teams at the Howe Cup, the individual championships were anticlimactic, Ho said.
“It’s always a little tough playing individual events after team play is over,” she said.
For the men, the weekend’s results were a little disappointing.
“We were expecting to do much better than we actually did,” Manchanda said. “All those players in that draw are really tough.”
And none were tougher than the freshmen. Freshmen comprised three of the top six seeds, including tournament champion Yasser El-Halaby of Princeton.
After defeating Mihir Kappoor and Michael Bloomberg in the first and second rounds, Illingworth, Yale’s own freshman standout, fell to Trinity’s Michael Ferreira, the No. 5 seed 7-9, 9-0, 9-4, 9-0.
“I won the first game, and then I kind of lost my focus,” Illingworth said. “I was just kind of out there hitting the ball; I didn’t have a strategy. I wanted another shot at Yasser [El-Halaby], who I would have played in the semis.”
Ferreira also had home court advantage.
But doing well during the team’s season was more important than success in this tournament, Illingworth said.
In other men’s action, Manchanda, after a tough first-round loss in four games to Trinity’s Yvain Badan 8-10, 9-0, 9-7, 9-2, bounced back in the consolation draw to win two matches and reach the semifinals before losing to Javier Castilla 5-9, 9-3, 9-6, 9-2.
“Personally, I wasn’t satisfied with my result,” Manchanda said.
Yale’s last women’s squash national champion was Berkeley Belknap ’92 in 1991. Victor Wagner ’83 was the last national champion for the men in 1982.