When you have everything, you have everything to lose.
For the Trinity men’s and the Yale women’s squash teams, this couldn’t not prove more true. If the Bantams lose tonight to the Bulldogs men, their 131-match winning streak, capped by seven national championships, could come to a crashing halt. The same is true for the Eli women, who are attempting to win their third consecutive national and Howe Cup titles this season.
Yale will face the Bantams this evening at the Brady Squash Center as both the favorites and the underdogs. The No. 4 Eli men (7-0, 3-0 Ivy) will attempt to upset a dynasty that has gone 53-1 this season in individual match play, while the top-ranked women (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) will try to hold off Trinity, whom they dethroned two years ago. All four teams are undefeated this season, but only two can emerge triumphant from tonight’s battle of squash powerhouses.
Trinity is the best competition either Bulldogs squad has seen so far this season. Although in December the women dominated No. 5 Penn, 7-2, the men struggled to eke out a 5-4 win over the No. 6 Quakers, despite having defeated the team 7-2 last year. The Eli women have three of the top five college players in the country — reigning individual champion Michelle Quibell ’06, Catherine McLeod ’07 and captain Amy Gross ’06. On the men’s side, the Bulldogs have one player, captain Julian Illingsworth ’06, in the top 10 nationally, compared to Trinity’s four.
No. 2 Miranda Ranieri ’08 said that during yesterday’s practice, players hit with partners on the courts that their matches will be on, in addition to analyzing videos for personal strengths and weaknesses. The team also met with Yale assistant coach Gareth Webber to talk over basics they will need to focus on.
“Trinity is definitely one of our hardest matches,” Ranieri said. “On paper they are probably weaker than Harvard or Princeton. … We’re going into this as if we’re playing any team, whether they are on a higher, equal or weaker level.”
In her role as a team leader and fourth-year veteran, Gross said, each match is an opportunity for anxiety as well as inspiration.
“You can’t help but get nervous for everyone else on the team,” she said. “But at the same time, it makes me more motivated and it’s more gratifying when we win.”
Quibell will take center court against Trinity player Vaidehi Reddy, who is ranked third in the country, while the nation’s top-ranked men’s player, Illingsworth, will face off against No. 4 Shawn Johnstone. It will be an upward battle for the men, who also came in on their own time to practice their individual skills before meeting together as a team.
Four-seed Max Samuel ’08 said the Bulldogs went through the Trinity ladder and tried to pinpoint weaknesses by evaluating what each player needed to do in each spot. Instead of approaching tonight’s showdown with apprehension, players are taking a positive attitude toward the Bantam dynasty.
“It has to end at some point,” Samuel said. “Why not end it right now?”