Lauren Doline ’05, a two-year veteran of the women’s squash team, took more than a minute to finish a heated match point against rookie Nicola Shiels ’07 during an intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the season-opener against Williams. Far from an anomaly, such intense intra-team competition is just a sign of what is in store for the Bulldogs this season.

The Elis look to repeat last season’s dominance of Williams today and the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday. Last year, Yale blanked Williams with a score of 9-0 and beat then-nationally ranked No. 4 Quakers with a score of 7-2. Yale head coach Mark Talbott will have his top three players sit out against Williams in order to give younger players a chance to gain experience. But the Bulldogs will bring out their heavy artillery to meet Penn on Saturday, including Michelle Quibell ’06, who Talbott says is completely recovered after suffering an ankle injury in October.

“[Quibell is] healthy again and playing well,” Talbott said. “I think she is going to have a good year.”

In Yale’s 7-2 victory over Penn last season, the Bulldogs lost at the one and three spots and had to depend on the team’s depth with victories at the five, six and seven spots from Devon Dalzell ’04, Lauren Doline ’05, and Sarah Coleman ’05, respectively. Quibell, who is returning as number one, lost a hard-fought match to first-team All-American and Israeli Junior Champion Runa Reta. Eli Amy Gross ’06 defeated second-seed All-American Dafna Wegner in a five-game marathon.

Although Talbott sees a tough challenge in Penn, he realizes that the Quakers are a much younger team this season than last. Penn lost both top-seeded Reta, who graduated last spring, and second-seed Wegner, who decided not to play her senior season. The reigns of Quaker leadership have been passed on to last season’s third seed — junior All-American Linda McNair.

“Their team will be sufficiently weaker,” Quibell said.

Both Williams (2-0) and Penn (4-0, 1-0 Ivy) have already played matches this season and both teams are undefeated. Talbott said he does not think his team will be at a disadvantage playing its first two regular season matches against teams that have already played several matches.

“We played the Ivy scrimmage,” Talbott said. “The girls have been playing a lot of matches in practice; they have been training quite hard, so I’m not worried about [starting their regular season against teams that have already played several matches].”

A late-season loss to Harvard cost Yale the Ivy League championship last year and the Bulldogs have worked hard to improve their physical fitness early this season.

“This is the hardest we’ve worked in my four years here,” team captain Dalzell said.

This season, the Bulldogs look to add a strong top three to a team that already had a lot of depth. Quibell is set in the number one spot and Gross and Catherine McLeod ’07 will compete for the second and third seeds. Frances Ho ’05 and Rachita Vora ’06 will round out the top five.

Gross said that because of the team’s depth, there is sure to be a lot of jostling for position within the Eli squad this season.

“We’re just so deep this year, which makes it so competitive,” Gross said. “We are really motivated and focused, and we have a lot of fun.”

Despite a loaded roster, Gross said there is a lot of team unity and friendship.

Talbott and the team hope the hard work will pay off against Williams and Penn. Talbott said the team is ready.

“They’re ready to go,” Talbott said. “They are anxious to play.”

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