Like the New England Patriots’ Tedy Bruschi, who enjoyed his final practice before the Super Bowl by hanging out with his family, the members of the women’s squash team are going into their final team contest calmly self-assured.
“I think actually we are going into [this weekend] a little more relaxed because there is a little pressure off of our shoulders since we already defended our Ivy and national titles,” Amy Gross ’06 said. “At Harvard some people were a little too tense, but we are definitely well prepared and we know we are so we are going in with a good mind-set.”
But while the Patriots have already solidified their dynasty, the Bulldogs are still one win away from establishing one of their own. The Elis travel to Princeton, N.J. this weekend for the three-day Howe Cup tournament. With a victory, they will successfully defend their triple crown of titles — Ivy, national and Howe — and finish undefeated for the second straight season. But it will not be a walk in the park for the top-seeded Elis with Harvard, Trinity and Princeton itching to avenge earlier losses to the Bulldogs.
The tournament involves three rounds of matches with each team playing one match a day. The Elis square up against Williams in the first round on Friday. If the Bulldogs win, the team will face the winner of the Princeton-Dartmouth match. The winner will advance to the finals against the winner the other bracket, which includes the Cantabs and the Bantams. Since the Bulldogs have already beaten the Ephs, 9-0, as well as the Tigers, 8-1, Michelle Quibell ’06 said the set up for the match suits the Bulldogs.
“I think it’s perfect,” Quibell said. “Williams is a fairly easy match, Princeton will be a pretty good warm-up match, and then either Trinity or Harvard as the match to really go into focusing on it. But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, and we have to take it one match at a time.”
The fourth-seeded Tigers could provide some difficulty in the second round. Led by Claire Rein-Weston, Princeton will have something to prove after barely losing to the third-seeded Bantams, 5-4, in the regular season.
“Trinity barely beat them, and it’s at Princeton, so we definitely can’t take them lightly,” Quibell said. “They are a really deep team. We’ve got to worry about ourselves.”
Gross expressed similar sentiments and said there will be some tough competition for the undefeated Elis.
“A lot of different teams have different strengths,” Gross said. “Princeton has more depth than a strong top, but Trinity and Harvard both have really strong top two players, so it depends on the day. We just want to go in and win and also show that we are the best team out there and win as decisively as we can.”
After losses to Trinity’s Lynn Leong and Harvard’s Kyla Griggs, Eli No. 1 Quibell said she wants to do her part to help lead the Bulldogs to victory.
“It’s been a rough couple weeks, but that’s why this is a team sport and that’s why our team is so good,” she said. “One person has an off day and others cover for them. I kind of want to redeem myself and hopefully get my game up to par for myself and for the team.”
Quibell said she and the team are working on playing patiently and not making mistakes.
“It’s so tempting to go for the shots that are very low percentage shots, but at this level of play, if you keep the play tight your opponent should eventually buckle,” Quibell said. “You wait for them to hit tin, not you.”
Since this weekend will be the last time this season the Bulldogs will be competing as a team, many of the players are experiencing some bittersweet feelings.
“Even though it’s sad that the season is coming to an end, it has been an amazing four years for me,” Lauren Doline ’05 said. “There is no better way to end my Yale career than with a double national and Ivy championship and by being on a team of amazing women who are champions on and off the court.”