For the women’s squash team, it’s deja vu all over again.
The biggest match of the Elis’ season is the one they’ve been expecting all along. A preseason College Squash Association poll ranked Yale as No. 1, just one spot above perennial rival Harvard. The two teams have continued to hold those spots for nearly four months, and just like last year, they will face off in the last match of the season for the Ivy and national championships.
This evening, the No. 1 Bulldogs (10-0, 5-0 Ivy) take on the No. 2 Cantabs at home to defend their back-to-back titles and to maintain their status as the dominant team in women’s collegiate squash. The team has gone undefeated since Dec. 3, 2003, and has posted shutouts in seven of their 10 victories this season. One year ago, the Elis defeated Harvard, 5-4, and then widened its margin of victory to 7-2 just two days later to take the Howe Cup Tournament from the Cantabs.
But both teams have lost players to graduation and have shown signs of inconsistency this season. Yale narrowly defeated Trinity, 5-4, and the Cantabs were upset by the Bantams, 6-3, two weeks ago.
No. 5 Lauren McCrery ’07 said Harvard has hyped up the strength of their lineup, and her team must tune out all the talk if they are to remained focused.
“It’s all going to come down to how mentally tough we are,” she said. “We have to be on our game. We need to go in being positive and believe that we are all capable of winning.”
Players said the Cantab ladder is like the Bulldogs’ line-up — stronger at the top. Yale has four of the top ten individual players in the country in Michelle Quibell ’06, Miranda Ranieri ’08, Catherine McLeod ’07 and Amy Gross ’06, all of whom were semifinalists at Princeton’s Constable Tournament last month.
Harvard’s Kyla Grigg, who is ranked No. 2 in the country, defeated Quibell in the teams’ dual match last year but lost to her in the finals of the individual championships. Quibell will play new Harvard No. 1, freshman Lily Lorentzen, who is the notable addition to the Cantab line-up this season.
Lorentzen took last year off to train for the World Junior Championships this past July. In an article published in the Harvard Crimson Dec. 2, Cantabs head coach Satinder Bajwa said Lorentzen would be the missing key to take down the powerhouse Eli squad.
“It’s almost like, had Lily been on the team last year, would we be national champions?” Bajwa said in the article. “Probably, if you remember that match against Yale, we probably could have.”
McLeod said although Lorentzen is an excellent player, she thought Bajwa’s comment was unsubstantiated.
“It seemed silly to be suggesting that if they had had her last year they would have beaten us,” she said. “I thought that was obnoxious and arrogant. They didn’t have a lot to back it up.”
Yale will look for wins at the top four seeds and at No. 8 and No. 9, because the Harvard players at those spots are both walk-ons. The middle of the Harvard order will particularly challenge the Bulldogs, and every match has the potential to be close.
“Everyone knows it’s going to be a tough match,” McCrery said. “We’ve come really far this season. Everyone’s attitude is we have to leave it on the court and give it our all.”
Although they have been here before, the Eli women said familiarity only increases their incentive to claim victory over the Cantabs yet again.
“We’re going to give it our all,” Quibell said. “The fact that it’s Harvard makes us that much more motivated.”