The Yale men’s and women’s squash teams are both looking to keep their Ivy records perfect heading into road matchups against a pair of highly ranked Ancient Eight programs.
Both Eli squads enter the road trip riding momentum after a total of seven wins between the two teams last weekend. The No. 6 Yale women (10–1, 3–0 Ivy) have set their sights on two of the top Ivy challengers, No. 2 Penn (7–1, 1–1) and No. 3 Princeton (6–2, 1–2), for a weekend that multiple players described as their most important and challenging of the season. The No. 4 men (8–2, 3–0) will also face a top-three ranked opponent, though they will also get one opponent outside the top 10: first, No. 11 Princeton (2–7, 0–2), followed by No. 2 Penn (7–2, 1–1).
“This upcoming weekend is definitely one of our most highly anticipated weekends of the season,” Georgia Blatchford ’16 said. “Playing these two exceptional Ivy squash programs is always something we look forward to, and historically the matches have been very close.”
On the women’s side, although Yale may have a better record on paper than both of its upcoming opponents, Penn and Princeton have faced arguably tougher competition. Both teams have fallen to No. 1 Harvard — an opponent Yale has yet to play — and Princeton’s only other loss has come against Penn.
Last season, Penn and Princeton narrowly edged out the Bulldogs by 6–3 and 5–4 margins, respectively, but head coach Dave Talbott noted confidently that Yale matches up better against Princeton this season due to increased depth throughout the Elis’ lineup.
The Tigers are led by Olivia Flechter and Maria Elena Ubina, both of whom earned All-American First Team honors last season. Flechter finished the 2014–15 season as the No. 3 player in the country, and Ubina was just behind her at No. 4.
“The matchups as you move down the lineup is where Yale will have chances,” Talbott said.
Blatchford noted that because the Princeton team is mostly comprised of American players, the Bulldogs — most of whom are also American — are likely to have had prior experience playing their opponents given the small size of the American squash community.
On Penn’s roster, however, eight of the 16 players have international origins. Talbott described the Quakers as a serious contender for a national championship and the toughest opponent Yale will face to date.
“Penn has really redefined its roster the past few years, and they are certainly going to be a tough team to beat,” Blatchford said. “They have a lineup filled with some of the best women squash players from all around the globe, so we are really excited to get on court with them and see how we match up.”
Penn will also provide a tough test for the Eli men, who travel south as underdogs against the Quakers but favorites over the Tigers.
On the team’s quest for an Ivy League title, this weekend will be the season’s most important to date, according to Talbott. Last season, Yale beat the Quakers and Tigers by respective 7–2 and 6–3 scores, though Talbott noted that Penn is much stronger this season, as evidenced by its improvement from last season, in which Penn posted an overall record of 9–8, and 3–4 in the Ivy League.
“[We are] favored against Princeton and are looking for an efficient showing and not burning energy heading for Penn on Sunday,” said Talbott. “Penn is not as deep as Trinity, but they are a contender as witnessed by their wins over [No. 6] St. Lawrence and [No. 3] Rochester.”
Men’s captain Sam Fenwick ’16 echoed Talbott’s remarks, adding that his teammates need to play “mindful squash” in order to avoid suffering from fatigue in matches the following day. He noted that Princeton is a physically strong team, making it important for the Bulldogs to dominate the middle of the court so that they conserve enough energy to take on Penn.
Talbott and players from both Yale teams noted the challenge of playing on Princeton’s and Penn’s courts, which are made from a different material than Yale’s and thus cause the speed and bounce of the ball to differ. Moreover, players noted the higher stakes of playing Ivy teams, as the results will affect both overall and League standings.
“It’s going to be a warzone at the Penn squash center, but we are ready for battle,” Thomas Kingshott ’18 said.
The Yale women begin play at Princeton at 12 p.m. on Saturday, while the men start at 2:30 p.m.