Michelle Quibell ’06 and the women’s squash team capped off a spectacular 2004-05 campaign by dominating not as a team, as they had all season, but as individual players.
The Elis left the Collegiate Squash Association National Championship with many of their opponents seeing blue, as Quibell took her second-straight individual national title by beating Harvard’s Kyla Grigg in the Ramsay Cup finals. Other Bulldogs also found success at Dartmouth, despite having to overcome what captain Frances Ho ’05 described as anti-climatic feelings because the Bulldogs had already won the Howe Cup.
“Playing individuals is always tough,” Ho said. “Everyone stayed focused and it just showed how dominant and how talented we are. It was a nice finish.”
Because of the seeding of the Ramsay Cup, which Ho called “ridiculous” and head coach Dave Talbott said was “unfair,” Catherine McLeod ’07 had to beat Amy Gross ’06 in the quarterfinals before taking on and eventually falling to Quibell in the semis. Frances Ho ’05 won the consolation draw and Miranda Ranieri ’08 won the second round consolation while Lauren McCrery ’07 defeated Kate Rapisarda ’07 in the “B” division.
In the Ramsay finals, Quibell lost the first game 9-7 to Grigg, a Cantab sophomore who beat Quibell during the regular season. But after that, Grigg could do little to stop Quibell as the defending national champion took the last three games, 9-1, 9-2, 9-5.
“Last year I was the underdog, but then this year I had nothing to lose either because Kyla had beaten me, so I tried to be as relaxed as possible,” she said.
Talbott said Quibell’s win is even more special because she is the first two-time national champion in the history of Yale squash. The only other player to win a national individual title is Berkley Belknap ’92.
“[Quibell] had a really strong event and I think it’s a real credit to her,” Talbott said. “I thought Michelle was really focused. She had a bit of an up and down season and was injured, but she got healthy and really dominated the tournament.”
Quibell went on to play in the U.S. Women’s National tournament, but the rest of the team was finally finished with a season that included beating Harvard to claim the Ivy title, vanquishing Trinity to get the national championship, and cruising through the Howe Cup tournament to complete the triple crown for the second straight year.
“It is much harder to repeat,” Talbott said. “It was a total group effort. All the women from top to bottom really decided they wanted to try to repeat, and I couldn’t be prouder. I just feel that this is something for them to take away really for a lifetime.”
Talbott said Ho played an important role as captain in bringing together the different personalities and getting them to work towards one goal while supporting each other. Ho said this closeness contributed to their success even more than the high level of talent on the team.
“When it is crunch time to win big matches, we always pull through because we are gutsy, we have heart — that’s the main thing that makes us a dynasty,” Ho said.
Ho added that the coaching team of Talbott and assistant coaches Gareth Webber and Julia Harris had a major impact on the team, especially because the Elis won the triple crown in 2004 under Mark Talbott, Dave’s brother, who left this season to coach at Stanford.
“I don’t think the coaches give themselves enough credit,” Ho said. “They did a tremendous job and we can’t overlook that.”
While Ho and her senior classmates will be graduating, Quibell said the Elis have a chance to three-peat their national titles next year. But whether they are able to accomplish that or not, Quibell said they have already put Yale women’s squash on the map.
“I feel proud being part of a team that has turned around Yale squash,” Quibell said. “I was looking at the Howe Cup trophy and we’ve only won it three times before. It was just ridiculous, Harvard, Harvard, Princeton, Princeton. Now there are two more Yale’s on there and hopefully we will catch up to them. Building a dynasty takes more than two years of winning it.”