The biggest matches of the men’s and women’s squash seasons will be played this Saturday against Ivy rival Harvard.

The men (7-1, 5-0 Ivy), undefeated all year except for a non-conference loss to Trinity, have a score to settle. For the past three years, they have been second in the Ivy league, losing 7-2 to Ivy champion Harvard last season. If the squad manages to knock off the Crimson this year, it will claim the Ivy title for the first time since 1990.

For the women (9-0, 5-0 Ivy), both the Ivy and national titles hang in the balance in Cambridge. For a team that has dominated most of its opponents — seven of the Bulldogs’ nine wins this season were shutouts — the Crimson will provide its greatest challenge. The Elis, 23-0 since Dec. 3, 2003, are also fighting to keep their undefeated streak intact.

The men’s team has recently been outperforming Harvard. Although both teams have only lost to Trinity, Yale has had the better season. The Bulldogs have soundly beaten all their other opponents, including an 8-1 flogging of No. 5 Princeton. Harvard, on the other hand, had a much narrower victory over the Tigers last weekend, eking out a 5-4 win.

In addition, Yale’s no. 1 Julian Illingworth ’06 has had a phenomenal season with wins against Trinity’s Bernardo Samper, the 2002 individual national champion, and Princeton’s Yasser El-Halaby, last year’s champion. No one on Harvard’s team has matched those feats this season.

Yale’s No.1-ranked women’s team is one of the strongest ever assembled. Three Elis made it into the semi-finals at Princeton’s Constable Invitational this season, which Michelle Quibell ’06 won for the second year in a row. Yale’s trio of Quibell, Amy Gross ’06 and Catherine McLeod ’07, who also occupied the top three pre-season spots in the national rankings, has only lost one match all season. Although the Crimson women have had a banner year, beating Trinity for the first time since 2001, the Bulldogs appear to have more firepower and experience.

The men’s and women’s teams have good reason to be confident going into this weekend’s match.

“Harvard will definitely be our biggest challenge,” said women’s captain Frances Ho ’05. “But we are ready. We can beat them.”

Ho added that playing the Crimson at Cambridge will change the game and require extra focus. At the tail end of a fast-paced season, the team will take a two-day break from practice to go into the match rested. She said the players are taking a business-like approach to Saturday’s showdown.

“We’re trying no to get too excited about it,” she said.

The men are looking forward to a rematch of last year’s title match, which Harvard won 7-2. For the senior members of the team, the duel against the Crimson represents their last chance for a title.

“We’ve come in second in the Ivies three years in a row,” said Josh Schwartz ’05, the No. 2 seed on the team. “We’ve clearly been thinking about this match for a long time since we lost to Harvard.”

Moshe Sarfaty ’08, who has had an impact his first year playing No. 3, agreed.

“We are thinking about [the Ivy title] all the time,” he said. “All the guys think this is the year.”

Schwartz said he thinks Yale’s prospects are looking a lot better this time around, adding that Harvard lost a lot of key players to graduation last year.

“I think that our team’s confident and ready for Saturday to win a ring,” he said.

[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”16441″ ]