Willis Reed, Kirk Gibson, Curt Schilling — Miranda Ranieri ’08?
Put the Yale women’s squash captain on the list of athletes who overcame injury to perform in the postseason. It’s not surprising that the top-ranked player in the country and the favorite heading into this weekend’s CSA individual championships in Annapolis, Md., was able to defeat five opponents over three days to become the third Bulldog in history to earn the National Women’s Ramsay Cup title, but what she had to overcome makes it all the more impressive.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”12564″ ]
A day after handling No. 40 Carly Grabowski of Princeton, 3-0 (9-3, 9-2, 9-0), and Trinity’s Nayelly Hernandez Perez, 3-0 (9-5, 9-3, 9-2), with ease in the rounds of 32 and 16, respectively, Ranieri suffered a freak ankle injury while preparing for her quarterfinal match. The injury occurred 10 minutes prior to the match, against a second member of the recently crowned national championship team, Princeton’s Neha Kumar — the third-ranked player in the country.
Ranieri received treatment and had her ankle heavily taped as she took the court against Kumar, but the result was nothing new — a 3-0 (9-6, 9-7, 9-7) victory for the Toronto native.
“It was a silly injury,” the national champion said. “I kind of panicked at first, but once the match started, my adrenaline took over and my concentration was solely on the match. By Sunday it was much better.”
Ranieri then shared the court against her second Trinity opponent of the tournament — fourth-ranked Lauren Polonich — and continued her dominance over the country’s best. She defeated the Trinity rival in straight games, 3-0 (10-9, 9-6, 9-1).
The semifinal victory set up a showdown with the nation’s second-ranked player, Penn’s Kristen Lange, in the tournament’s final Sunday afternoon. The two had squared off once earlier in the season, on Dec. 1. Yale fell to Penn that day, 7-2, but Ranieri dominated Lange, sweeping the Quaker in straight games.
This time around, the going was tougher for Ranieri, but in the end she was the lone player remaining, beating Lange 3-1 (9-4, 9-3, 1-9, 9-6).
“There was a lot of pressure on her,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “It was difficult because she was expected to win. It’s harder when you’re expected to, but she played like a champ. She stepped up and lived up to her No. 1 seed. She really deserved it.”
Ranieri had a cheering section on her side, made up of teammates, members of the men’s team, and her parents.
“I’m so glad I was there,” Sarah Toomey ’11 said. “She’s been an incredible captain and teammate. She’s worked so hard, doing extra sessions and constantly working on her game.”
Three other Bulldogs — Logan Greer ’11, Toomey and Alia Aziz ’10 — also competed in the Ramsay division, which is the top division in individual play. Each, however, lost in the first round, leaving Ranieri alone in advancing to the round of 16.
Greer, ranked 16th in the nation, fell to No. 20 Tara Chawla of Penn, 3-2 (9-7, 4-9, 3-9, 10-8, 9-3). No. 17 Toomey lost to Trinity’s No. 11 JoAnn Lee, 3-0 (9-3, 9-3, 9-6), while Aziz lost to Trinity’s No. 5 Ashley Clackson, 3-0 (9-5, 9-1, 9-7).
Toomey went on to win four consecutive matches in the consolation bracket, culminating with a 3-1 (9-4, 9-3, 1-9, 9-6) victory over Princeton’s Jackie Moss in the final.
“It’s been a long season, and heading into the tournament I was tired and I wasn’t quite as prepared as I usually am,” Toomey said. “But coming back to beat the girl who beat me last week [at the Howe Cup versus Jackie Moss] and winning the consolation bracket was great.”
Three Bulldogs — Tara Wadhwa ’09, Jessica Balderston ’09 and Caroline Reigeluth ’11 — participated in the Holleran Division (Women’s B) tournament. Reigeluth reached the semifinals before ultimately succumbing to Princeton’s Margaret Kent, 3-1 (7-9, 9-5, 9-2, 9-5).