The women’s squash team successfully defended both their Ivy League and national titles with a 5-4 victory over Harvard in Cambridge Saturday. While the Elis took four of the matches 3-0, a gritty comeback in the fourth match helped seal the win in a competition which to that point could have gone either way.
“It was a complete team effort, and we pulled it out,” captain Frances Ho ’05 said. “Being away for the win, especially at Harvard, is such a great feeling.”
Amy Gross ’06, who won 3-0 at two-seed, said it was especially sweet to overcome the Crimson on the road because the memory of the Elis’ loss to the Crimson two years ago at the Murr Center was still fresh in the upperclassmen’s minds.
“We accomplished our goal of repeating the title,” Gross said. “It’s definitely something to be proud of. It was a big transition year with our new coach [Dave Talbott], and we put forth 100 percent effort, and it paid off.”
While the women had reason to celebrate, the men’s squash team had a disappointing end to their Ivy season. In separate action Saturday, they fell 6-3 against the Crimson, with the Elis’ top four seeds losing to their Cantab opponents.
In the women’s competition, after Miranda Ranieri ’08 dropped her first two games against Harvard’s Aubrey Duboc, it looked like the Bulldogs might go into the second set of matches tied. But Ranieri rallied to win the next three games and give the Elis a 3-1 lead.
“I went into the match really nervous and it took me a while to get into it,” Ranieri said. “My opponent was playing well the first two. Usually if I am under a lot of pressure in the first two games and I am down 0-2, I will pick it up. With all the support from the team it made it a lot easier.”
Despite the lead, the Yale win was not assured until Catherine McLeod ’07 took out Cantab Jennifer Blumberg. McLeod had to fight her way to a 10-8 win in the first game, but finally got settled down at took the last two games 9-0 and 9-2.
“[McLeod] had a tough first game,” Ho said. “With everything on the line and trying to defend our title, everyone started off a little nervous. She pulled it out, and once she found her rhythm she dominated and took control. I knew she would win.”
Once McLeod won, the Bulldogs knew that Harvard could not come back, which took some pressure off top-seed Michelle Quibell ’06. But Quibell lost a nailbiter 3-2 to Cantab Kyla Grigg.
“It was hard for Michelle too,” Ho said. “Once you’ve won [as a team] it’s hard to keep focus on your own match, but I am confident Michelle will bounce back and definitely dominate next weekend.”
Although they have secured both titles, the Elis are not finished with their season yet. The next matches on the schedule for the Bulldogs are Amherst on Tuesday and then the Howe Cup Tournament next Saturday.
And even though they cannot lose all of their focus, the two-time national champs are definitely pleased with the win today.
“It feels really good to win,” Ranieri said. “Our team is united on and off the court, and we support each other so well. To experience the win with a group of individuals was really good.”
Ho said it was also nice to repeat their championships after the challenges of switching coaches this year after Mark Talbott left for Stanford and his brother Dave, already head coach of the men’s team, took over the women’s team as well.
“This year has sort of been an emotional roller coaster,” Ho said. “I think winning this just reflects our team and how much heart we have, and our coaches, all three of them, have been amazing. We wanted to win it for Dave too.”