The women of Eli squash got a boost of confidence this weekend in anticipation of today’s match against intrastate-rival No. 1 Trinity (3-0) when the No. 2 Elis (6-0) chalked up four victories in two days by a combined score of 36-0.
The Bulldogs did not lose a single match against Bates, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, or Cornell in the unofficial tournament. The Elis dropped only four games out of the 247 they played. Frances Ho ’05 dropped one game in her 3-1 victory over her Bowdoin opponent. Lauren McCrery ’07 won a five-game marathon against her Dartmouth opponent and Sarah Coleman ’05 rebounded after dropping the first game of her Dartmouth match to win 3-1. The Bulldogs won every other match in straight sets, 3-0.
Before the squash players of Yale and Dartmouth teams were introduced to a packed Brady Squash Center late Saturday afternoon, a moment of silence was called in memory of the five Yale undergraduates lost a year ago in a fatal car accident.
Yale head coach Mark Talbott said he was obviously pleased with his team, though the results were not unexpected. Talbott felt the marathon of matches was well worth it despite the ease with which the Elis dispatched the competition.
“We won pretty handily,” Talbott said. “But it was good practice.”
Talbott sat half of his starting line-up against Bates and Bowdoin in order to give other players game experience, but he brought his best players against Dartmouth, which was expected to be the toughest competition of the weekend. Second-seed and the nation’s seventh-ranked Amy Gross ’06 was missing from this weekend’s action due to a nagging groin injury.
Gross said Monday she felt better, though was still in some pain.
“I feel a lot better today [Monday],” Gross said. “I’ll practice for 20 to 30 minutes, see how it goes, because if it still hurts, I’ll need to rest it more.”
Although Gross could not be reached on Tuesday night, teammate Michelle Quibell ’06 said Gross will be ready to play today.
Talbott said the team practiced hard Monday, but went lighter on Tuesday before today’s match against Trinity.
Last season, the Bulldogs lost both meetings to Trinity — during the regular season by a score 7-2 and in the final round of the Howe Cup Championship 9-0. Captain Devon Dalzell ’04 said the team was not calm enough in its loss to Trinity in the Howe Cup finals last season. But this weekend’s barrage of matches has helped the Elis develop their ability to maintain composure under fire, a key ingredient for Bulldog success today.
“We just need to relax,” Dalzell said. “I think last year we were way too nervous. I don’t think I even breathed the first game, it was over way to quickly.”
The Elis look to make today’s meeting last a little longer than the finals of the Howe Cup. This match could also determine the National Champion, which, separate from the Howe Cup, is determined by who has the best record in regular season play. If No. 2 Yale defeats No. 1 Trinity, the Elis will not only take over the top-spot in the national rankings, they will have taken a huge step toward claiming the national title.
“In a way it’s kind of like the national title,” Quibell said. “If we beat Trinity and win the rest of our matches, as we are expected to do, we will win the national title.”
Yale’s first-seed Quibell, who is ranked fourth in the nation, will be matched up against Trinity’s top-seed and the top-ranked player in collegiate squash, Bantam captain Amina Helal. Quibell went 1-1 against Helal last season, winning in the regular season match-up but losing in the Howe Cup finals.
Between the Bulldogs and the Bantams, Wednesday’s match will see six of the top ten ranked players in the nation competing, with Bantams at the No. 1, 2, 8, and 9 spots and Bulldogs at the No. 4 (Quibell) and No. 7 (Gross) spots.
But for Dalzell, there are no doubts about the Elis’ skill and experience.
“We’re going in there the underdogs,” Quibell said. “We have nothing to lose.”
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