By Christina Pryor
To be in the top 10 in the country in any sport often means that a team can compete with the best of the best. But for the women’s squash teams of Cornell and Bates, players were lucky to get a point off of the two-time national champion Bulldogs.
The Yale women (5-0, 3-0 Ivy) dominated the No. 9 Big Red and the No. 10 Bobcats last weekend at the Yale Round Robin, sweeping both teams, 9-0, at the Brady Squash Center. Eighteen teams from across the nation competed in the three-day tournament. The Elis also scrimmaged Penn for additional practice.
In Saturday’s face-off with Cornell, the Bulldogs were flawless, dropping only 19 points in nine matches. And against Bates, despite usual No. 2 Miranda Ranieri ’08 and No. 9 Jessica Balderston ’09 sitting out their matches, eight of the nine matches were decided 3-0, including victories for defending individual champion Michelle Quibell ’06 and captain Amy Gross ’06. Katie Mandel ’07, playing at No. 9 on the ladder, overcame a 2-1 deficit to beat Margot Webel in five games to ensure the shut-out.
Sarah Barenbaum ’08 said playing three matches in two days served as good practice for the Elis, but was more beneficial for smaller colleges such as Bates and Hamilton with emerging squash programs.
“Yale is centrally located, so it was a way for small schools that are far away from each other to come to one school and get all of their matches over with in a weekend,” she said.
Although only the matches against Cornell and Bates were put on the books, players said Penn was the weekend’s toughest competition. The two teams rescrambled their line-ups from their prior meetings to give different seeds the opportunity to play each other. Yale beat the Quakers, 7-2, in December, and the two squads were the highest-ranked at the round robin.
Team members said they hope to see the results of their hard work pay off in a home match this Wednesday against the No. 3 Trinity Bantams, who lost the national title match to the Elis two years ago. Former top seed Lynn Leong graduated and Lauren Polonich, the most recent No. 1 player, is abroad for the semester, but the Trinity ladder remains formidable.
“We never know who they are going to have,” Lauren McCrery ’07 said. “We don’t really know too much going in about their players and their depth. It’s definitely going to be our first very tough match, so we’re gearing up for it.”
The Bullogs’ training involves “tapering down” the intensity of their practices immediately before a big match. Players said they will also have a mental preparation session on Tuesday to ensure they are ready for their first major competition of the season.
“I can’t pinpoint Trinity’s weaknesses because I haven’t seen them play,” Gross said. “But as long as we go in with the right mindset and try our best, we can come through.”