Back on the courts after last weekend’s Ivy Scrimmage, the Yale women’s squash team looks to repeat last year’s performance, highlighted by the squad’s third-consecutive national title. But with the loss of Michelle Quibell ’06, one of the most talented squash players to ever don Bulldog blue, the Elis will set off on what will be their toughest season in a long time.

The Bulldogs opened the 2006-’07 season by finishing fourth in the Scrimmage, held at the Brady Squash Center at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The team won their first round match easily, defeating the Ivy All-Stars, 9-0. The All-Stars, the eighth team in the tournament created to make up for the absence of a varsity squash program at Columbia, were dominated by the Elis, who won six of the nine matches in straight sets.

“The scrimmage was positive for everyone,” Lauren McCrery ’07 said. “We weren’t sure of how we were going to do against a lot of the teams, and the scrimmage helped us see how we match up to them.”

Although players said both second-round matches were closely contested, Yale lost to Penn, 5-4, and then to Harvard, 6-3. Captain Kate Rapisarda ’07 said even though the Bulldogs came in fourth place, they were optimistic about the coming season.

“Moving up a couple spots is going to be more difficult,” McCrery said. “I really wasn’t sure how I was going to perform. I think I played pretty well this weekend and was pleased with my performance. The loss to Harvard was close, and I’m not trying to look at that as a negative but as a learning experience.”

Miranda Ranieri ’08, who started second behind nationally-ranked superstar Michelle Quibell ’06 last season, showed what she was made of in her first start at the No. 1 position aganst Penn and Harvard this weekend. She made an inspiring comeback to defeat Penn’s Kristen Lange, 3-2, in a closely contested match but lost to Harvard’s top player, Kyla Grigg.

Catherine McLeod, who started No. 3 last year, put on a strong show and won all three of her matches in the scrimmage playing in the No. 2 position this weekend. McCrery, who started at No. 3 against the Crimson and Quakers, also won her first-round match against the All-Stars, but then she succumbed in matches against Penn and Harvard.

“We are happy with the results, and since we’re so close to the top teams, we think we have a shot,” Sarah Barenbaum ’08 said. “[Princeton] and [Penn] had a great recruiting year, and our close match with Penn just shows that if we stay really determined and work hard we have a shot at beating these teams.”

Missing from the Bulldogs’ lineup was Nicola Shiels ’07, who was recovering from an injury.

The scrimmage featured the three rookies on the team: Alia Aziz ’10, Katharine Ettinger ’10 and Kaitlin Vinci ’10. Vinci and Ettinger both appeared as part of the Ivy All-Stars, and Aziz kicked off her Yale squash career by winning a closely-fought 3-2 match against Penn’s Caitlin Russell.

“Our new recruits are fantastic,” Barenbaum said. “They’ve already added so much to the team. They have contributed a great dynamic to the team.”

The Bulldogs lost two seniors — Quibell and Amy Gross ’06 — creating two holes that may take a while to fill.

“A lot of people were unsure where we would stand as compared to other schools with huge freshman classes since we only have three freshmen,” Rapisarda said. “[Quibell], who was the No. 1 player on our team, was the best college player, and [Gross] was another top player, so they are going to be missed.”

Rapisarda said the team has worked harder this season than they ever have and are looking to prove to everyone how strong they are.

“[The team] has five seniors this year,” she said. “Its an old team with amazing leadership. Between all five of us, we can all help and contribute in different ways. We haven’t been the No. 1 team this season and that’s a new perspective for us. It will motivate us to train harder, want it more and hopefully we can prove this.”

The Elis kick off the regular season on Dec. 2, squaring off against Penn at home.

“Last year winning the title was an amazing experience,” Barenbaum said. “The team is really determined to work really hard this season, and the league is up for grabs.”