After successful finishes at last year’s national championships, both the men’s and women’s squash teams have set their sights even higher.
This year’s men’s team is looking to build on the young core that won them success in 2013–14. Despite an impressive record of 16–3 and a third-place finish at the national championships, head coach David Talbott is aiming for even more this year. Last spring the team graduated only two seniors, and five of the top six players were freshman or sophomores. As such, expectations are high.
“Knowing the competition, we have an opportunity to win the Ivy League and compete for a national championship,” Talbott said.
The trio of sophomores T.J. Dembinski ’17, Liam McClimtock ’17 and Kah Wah Cheong ’17 hope to continue the success they achieved last year. Dembinski and McClimtock both went undefeated, while Cheong lost just a single match. The three finished last season nationally ranked at 32, 34 and 38, respectively.
Sam Fenwick ’16 and Zach Leman ’16 will be key contributors this year as well. Fenwick and Leman finished the 2013-2014 season ranked 30 and 31, respectively.
The men will also benefit from the addition of seven freshmen.
“Six of our freshmen were nationally ranked in juniors and five of them will be or are capable of playing in the top ten this season,” said Talbott. “This is one of the strongest recruiting classes we’ve had in the past couple years.”
The freshman will look up to captain Joey Roberts ’15 for leadership. The freshmen have “been committed to working hard from day one” and could “play a crucial role in the success of the team this year,” Roberts wrote in an email to the News.
Roberts will be the only senior in the young team’s top 12.
The Eli’s main strength will be depth. While the team lacks superstar talent, Talbott believes they will win matches by “[out-grinding] their opponents with depth.” Unlike many top-heavy opponents, the Yale team will be composed of many three-, four- or five-spot players. As the roster currently stands, the number 9 player will be competitive with the number three player.
While the team certainly has tremendous potential, Talbott pointed out that inexperience may be their Achilles’ heel. He stressed that many of the younger players on both the men’s and women’s teams must make the transition from junior squash to collegiate squash.
The women’s squash team is also hoping to continue their success from last season. Yale wrapped up the season with a record of 17 and four and finished third at the national championships.
Last spring the team graduated four seniors, including key players Millie Tomlinson ’14 and Kimberley Hay ’14, who finished the season nationally ranked three and 11, respectively.
“We lost four key seniors last year so we’re in a rebuilding year. That being said, we still have a lot of great returning players and three strong freshmen who will make a huge impact in our lineup,” captain Anna Harrison ’15 wrote in an email to the News.
This fall the team welcomed freshmen Jen Davis ’18, Selena Maity ’18 and Jocelyn Lehman ’18. Davis and Maity finished their junior careers nationally ranked 18 and 24, respectively.
“[The] three freshmen are going to play important spots, and they’re all experienced junior players that have participated in both national and international competitions,” said head coach David Talbott.
Between the two teams, the Bulldogs welcomed 10 freshmen — about a third of the two teams.
The freshman will also look up to senior veterans Shihui Mao ’15 and Issey Norman-Ross ’15, as well as returning players Annie Ballaine ’16, Georgia Blatchford ’16 and Amanda Roberts ’16.
Talbott hopes the women can once again finish in the top four nationally.
In order to attain such an ambitious goal, the teams took a unique approach to training this fall.
“We changed our game plan to spend less time on the court and more time on strength and fitness,” said Talbott.
With the aid of strength and conditioning coach Mike Harris, who designed a squash-specific training program, the men’s and women’s teams should be well prepared for the coming season.
“Overall, this is probably the hardest working team we’ve had in the past few years,” Talbott said.
This season will feature arguably the strongest level of competition in collegiate squash history, according to associate head coach Pam Saunders.
Key matches include perennial rivals Trinity, Rochester and St. Lawrence, as well as all Ivy League competitors. St. Lawrence, Rochester, Penn and Princeton will all be hosted by Yale.
Both teams will unofficially begin their seasons this Saturday with the Ivy League Scrimmage, hosted at the Brady Squash center in Payne Whitney Gym.
The men will open against Dartmouth at 12:30 p.m., while the women will also play Columbia at 12:30 p.m.