The women of Eli squash came into last weekend with a full plate — No. 3 Princeton and No. 5 Pennsylvania. But the Bulldogs ate it up, winning both matches easily with 8-1 scores.
The No. 1 Elis (8-0, 4-0 Ivy) dropped only two matches all weekend. Against the Quakers last Sunday, Yale won by scores of 3-0 in six of its eight victories. At the Eli top spot Michelle Quibell ’06 gave up only three points on her way to a 9-3, 9-0, 9-0 victory over the Quakers’ Linda McNair. The sole loss against Penn came at the fifth spot where Yale’s Rachita Vora ’06 lost in four games to her former teammate from India, Rhea Bhandare.
The Bulldogs were similarly dominant against Princeton the afternoon before, with Yale winning five games by scores of 3-0. Yale only dropped one match to Princeton at the ninth spot where Sarah Coleman ’05 lost in a five-game marathon.
“They were pretty good teams, both Princeton and Penn,” Yale head coach Mark Talbott said. “They have pretty good depth. They had pretty good players in the middle of the lineup.”
Yale was able to match Princeton and Penn in depth, and overpowered both teams in skill. Talbott gives much of the credit to his freshman class. He said it was especially impressive how Catherine McLeod ’07, Lauren McCrery ’07 and Kate Rapisarda ’07 have established themselves in the top nine spots in the lineup — at the third, sixth and seventh positions, respectively.
“[McLeod, McCrery and Rapisarda] are probably the best three, six, seven [spots] in the league,” Talbott said.
In the latest national individual rankings, McLeod has burst into the top 10, now ranked sixth in collegiate women’s squash. McCrery and Rapisarda are ranked 21st and 24th respectively.
But the Eli veterans are not easily bested by their younger proteges. In the same national rankings, Quibell has moved from fourth to first in the nation, in no small part due to her two recent victories over the former top seed, Trinity’s Amina Helal. Amy Gross ’06, who recently came off of a leg injury to win her Princeton match 3-1, moved up from seventh to fifth.
Still, Gross and Quibell do not put too much weight into the mid-season rankings, as the final individual rankings depend on the College Squash Association Individuals in Canton, N.Y. in early March.
“It means a lot,” Gross said. “But until Individuals it’s hard to say [how important the rankings are].”
With this weekend’s victories over Penn and Princeton, the upcoming match against No. 4 Harvard — scheduled for Feb. 14 — seems to be the only hurdle lying between the Bulldogs and their first national title in 11 years.
But before taking on the Crimson, the Bulldogs must first dispatch No. 10 Amherst on Wednesday. The Jeffs have suffered 9-0 defeats at the hands of Dartmouth and Penn, teams Yale has beaten this season by scores of 9-0 and 8-1 respectively. Last season, on Feb. 25, 3003, Yale beat Amherst 9-0 without surrendering a single game.
But despite the history between these two teams, the Elis know not to take any team for granted. Last March, Harvard surprised the Bulldogs with an upset victory in the last match of the season that ultimately deprived Yale of the Ivy title.
Quibell and Gross say the team has learned from last season’s results.
“We definitely want to take it one match at a time,” Quibell said. “You never want to take anything too lightly.”
Quibell said toward the end of last season the team tired, but this year everyone is still feeling good. Gross agreed that the team was in fine form.
“I think everyone’s peaking right now,” Gross said. “Everyone’s at the top of their form.”