Coming into their first all-Ivy scrimmage this weekend, Yale squash is looking to uphold its reputation as a national powerhouse.
Last season, both the men’s and women’s squash teams won Ivy League titles. The women’s team went undefeated and captured the national championship, while the men’s team lost in the national finals to Trinity. This year, the teams hope to begin another successful season and capture both national titles, head coach David Talbott said.
“Both teams really have a chance to represent the program the way the kids did last year,” Talbott said. “They are really motivated kids and they train hard.”
Despite changes to the rosters, Talbott said he is confident in the abilities of the current team members.
The women’s team graduated two of its top three players, but returning this year is Millie Tomlinson ’14, last year’s intercollegiate squash champion. This year, the team’s strength lies in its depth, Talbott said. He added that the team has strong freshman and sophomore athletes, and that there are a number of players who can fill the seven, eight or nine spots.
“The team is definitely as strong as it was last year,” said team member Anna Harrison ’15, who watched her sister Katie Harrison ’13 win the national championship last year. Anna Harrison said she wants to experience the national championship again.
The men’s team graduated a valuable senior class, Talbott said. The Bulldogs lost four seniors, three of whom competed in Yale’s top nine. Unlike the women’s team, depth is a challenge for the men’s team, Talbott said.
“[The freshmen] are solid kids, but they’re not as good as the seniors we lost,” Talbott said.
Captain Ryan Dowd ’12 said he agreed that the last year’s senior class will be missed.
But he added that he is optimistic about the season.
“We’ve lost some manpower for sure, but it’s nothing we couldn’t make up” Dowd said.
Members of the men’s team said they remember what it was like to lose in the national finals last year and both teams are motivated by the end of last season, Talbott added.
As a result, the team is training harder than ever, Talbott said.
Preseason training this year differed from training last year. Talbott said training is more high tempo and specific to squash this year, and both teams spent more time training on the court.
Dowd said he thought the on-court training has helped the team play its best squash, which he said he hopes will prevent the men’s team from losing again in the national finals.
“The pain we felt is something we don’t want to feel again,” he said.
The Elis also have a new coach with fresh ideas for training. John Rooney, who won the past two national Irish championships, joined the Bulldogs this year as an assistant coach. Talbott said the team changed its approach to training based on Rooney’s experience.
Dowd added that the coaches are implementing shorter, more intense practices.
“[Rooney’s] been absolutely incredible, he’s exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Dowd said.
“Everyone loves him, he’s been so much fun and really interactive,” Harrison added.
The preseason training will be put to the test this weekend at Yale’s Brady Squash Center. During an all-Ivy scrimmage, Talbott said, the coaches will be able to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses and Yale will begin to gauge where it stands relative to the other Ivy League schools.
For Dowd and the men’s team, the scrimmage is a chance to prove the team remains strong despite losing so many valuable seniors.
“The past couple years we’ve really been the top dog, but this year people are out to get us because they think we’re weaker,” he said. “After this weekend, we want to still be the best.”
The scrimmage starts this Saturday at 12:45 p.m.