The women of Eli squash will test their stamina this weekend as they play four matches in two days at the Brady Squash Center against No. 10 Bates, No. 9 Bowdoin and No. 6 Dartmouth on Saturday and No. 13 Cornell on Sunday. Coming off of an historic and crushing 9-0 victory over the Stanford men on Jan. 9, the Bulldogs are prepared for this weekend’s marathon.
The matches this weekend come as part of an unofficial five-team tournament the Bulldogs will host. Yale head coach Mark Talbott said this is the first time in his six years in New Haven that this many teams have gathered this early in the season. Talbott believes the tourney will provide a good lead-up to the Elis’ critical match against national powerhouse Trinity on Jan. 21 and he hopes to make this congregation an annual affair.
No. 2 Yale opens the weekend on Saturday morning against Bates, followed by Bowdoin at noon, and Dartmouth five hours later. The Elis will conclude the weekend with a match against Cornell on Sunday.
Despite a grueling weekend of matches ahead of them, Talbott believes the depth of his team will help the Elis come out with four victories. “It’s a lot [of matches], but I’m going to rotate the players a bit,” Talbott said. “We have quite a strong team; we have really good depth, so I can rotate players.”
Veteran player Abby McDonough ’04 said the team is physically prepared after a rigorous training regimen over the winter break. The Bulldogs trained in San Francisco Jan. 4-9 with Talbott and area professionals before concluding the trip with the landmark match against the Stanford men. The battle of the sexes was the first inter-gender contest ever held in collegiate squash.
“Our fitness has definitely improved,” McDonough said. “Especially since San Francisco because we had double practices everyday and then matches in the evenings.”
While Yale has improved in fitness, the heavy training has taken its toll. The Eli second-seed Amy Gross ’06 will sit out this weekend due to a nagging leg injury. Third-seed Catherine McLeod ’07 will fill in for Gross this weekend. Sarah Coleman ’05 and Lauren McCrery ’07 will also sit out due to foot injuries that Talbott said are due to overuse. Talbott said a few days rest will be enough for all three players to recover in time for the match against No. 1 Trinity on Jan. 21.
Dartmouth (2-0) will pose the toughest challenge this weekend, though Yale beat Dartmouth by a score of 9-0 in last season’s match-up on Jan. 11, 2003. Despite the fact that the Elis have not played Bowdoin (3-3) nor Bates (0-1) in the recent seasons, there is good indication that the Bulldogs will prevail this weekend. Earlier in the season Bates and Bowdoin both lost to Williams by scores of 9-0 and 8-1 respectively. Yale blanked this same Williams team on Dec. 3. If history is used as the predictor, Cornell (0-3) will also not give the Elis any problems. The Bulldogs defeated the Big Red 9-0 last season on Jan. 18, 2003.
“These are kind of small matches,” McDonough said. “Dartmouth will be a good match. Everyone’s really looking forward to Trinity, it’s a big deal.”
Abbie Epstein ’05 said the team has a lot of confidence after the win over Stanford, though confidence certainly isn’t something the team is lacking.
“This is the most talented team Yale has ever had,” Epstein said. “I think his [Talbott’s] attitude is we have a shot to win everything, so we’ve been a lot more focused in terms of fitness training, which I think was a weakness last year.”
Though Talbott is confident about this weekend, he is not as concerned with the results as the overall play of the team.
“Hopefully everybody comes out of the weekend feeling like they’re starting to peak a little bit,” Talbott said. “Squash players tend too go through peaks and valleys.”
Talbott and the Elis look to peak just in time for the match against the only team that stands above them in the national rankings, the Trinity Bantams.