This past weekend, the Yale men’s and women’s squash teams hosted all of the Ancient Eight squads for the Ivy Scrimmage, marking the unofficial beginning of the season.
The scrimmage was the teams’ first opportunity to compete outside of practice, and head coach David Talbott was pleased with the progress that both teams have made since the year started.
The women began the scrimmage by sweeping Columbia 9–0. The Bulldogs then faced Penn in a rematch of last year’s national third-place contest, which Yale won 5–4. Unfortunately, the Elis were not so lucky this time, falling 6–3 to the Quakers, and then to Harvard 7–2 in their final match.
“The key is for our women to keep working hard and improving at the same rate they have since early September,” Talbott said in an email. “If we do that and stay healthy, we will be a team that can upset some teams nationally and in the Ivy League.”
Despite the two losses, Annie Ballaine ’16 performed valiantly, winning all three of her matches over the weekend.
Georgia Blatchford ’16 and Jocelyn Lehman ’18 both lost in tight five-game matches to their respective Harvard opponents, showing that the 7–2 loss did not accurately represent the Bulldogs’ level of talent.
“We [are] just dealing with being a young team. We are closing an experience gap right now,” associate head coach Pam Saunders said in an email.
Despite graduating two key contributors last spring, Saunders believes that the team is stronger than it appears on paper and that there is not much of a gap between Yale and the top three Ivy League squads.
The women placed fourth in the tournament, but their strong performance against two of the top teams in the nation — Penn and Harvard — showed their potential, according to Talbott.
The men’s team, ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches’ poll, began the scrimmage by routing Dartmouth 8–1. The match demonstrated the team’s youth, as the Bulldogs fielded five freshmen and three sophomores in the top nine.
In the second match, the Elis faced Columbia, the team ranked No. 6 in the nation during the preseason. The team’s depth proved vital, as the Bulldogs won all of the bottom five matches en route to a narrow 5–4 victory.
In the final round, Yale faced perennial rival Harvard, ranked No. 1 in the nation during the preseason. Last spring, the Harvard team swept Trinity 9–0 to win the national title.
Again, the Elis’ depth showed throughout the lineup, winning matches at the first, second, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth positions in a 6–3 triumph. The victory marked Yale’s first win over Harvard since the 2011–12 season.
“Beating Harvard was a great confidence boost for the men,” Saunders said. “[The victory] showed them that hard work does pay off.”
This was Harvard’s first loss since the 2012–13 season, in which the Crimson lost only three matches.
After sitting out the match against Dartmouth, captain Joey Roberts ’15 handily won his contests against Columbia and Harvard with matching 3–0 victories.
“This is the deepest Yale team in many years,” Talbott said. “The key is overcoming our inexperience against the top-level teams. This group has concentrated on fitness and strength in the preseason, and the key is now bring[ing] our racquet skills and match[ing] play up to a level that can win against some more experienced teams.”
The victory over Harvard clinched a first place finish for the Bulldogs, who last won the Ivy Scrimmage in 2010.
For the freshmen that played this weekend, the matches were the first of their college squash careers.
“I was nervous to get on court for the first time while wearing a Yale uniform,” Max Martin ’18 said. “My coaches and teammates helped me gain confidence in my own game rather than being intimidated by the more experienced players.”
Playing at number seven, Martin went undefeated this weekend with 3–0 wins over Dartmouth and Columbia, and a 3–1 win over his Harvard competitor.
Martin said that the wins over Columbia and Harvard proved how deep the team was, especially at the bottom of the roster. He added that the weekend also provided additional confidence that the team hopes to use in the future.
The men and women will host Franklin & Marshall on Dec. 6 to officially kick off the season.