The grand finale of the regular season is upon the Yale No. 4 men’s and No. 4 women’s squash teams, as the Bulldogs prepare to face Dartmouth and archrival Harvard in one of the most important weekends of their 2015–16 campaign.
The weekend’s matches, at Dartmouth on Friday and home against Harvard on Sunday, carry mainly national ranking implications for the Yale women’s team (10–3, 3–2 Ivy), which needs a perfect weekend as well as favorable results elsewhere in the Ivy League in order to win a share of the conference title. The Eli men (10–2, 5–0), however, have a strong shot at securing their first Ivy League championship since 2011.
The Yale men’s team is the only Ivy squad still undefeated in conference play, and a win this weekend over either No. 5 Dartmouth (8–3, 3–2) or No. 7 Harvard (4–4, 4–1) would secure the Bulldogs a share of the title. Two wins would make Yale the sole champion.
“We had great results against Princeton and Penn [last weekend], and we want to use the momentum moving forward in our matches against Dartmouth and Harvard,” Max Martin ’18 said. “We believe we’re the best team in the Ivy League and we’re ready to prove that this weekend.”
Last season the Yale men’s team beat Dartmouth 7–2, but fell by the same score to Harvard. The Crimson, however, has been unable to replicate the success from its national championship season in 2014–15.
This year, an inconsistent Harvard squad has suffered 5–4 losses at the hands of Dartmouth, No. 6 St. Lawrence and No. 5 Rochester, and a 7–2 loss to No. 1 Trinity. This season, Yale beat St. Lawrence 6–3 but was upset 5–4 by Rochester before falling 8–1 to Trinity.
“Our men match up very well versus both [Dartmouth and Harvard], and we are confident that we can come home with two wins,” associate head coach Pam Saunders said. “They will be tough matches but we trust our preparation and our mental edge. For the men it is all about coming in ready to play each match and not getting too nervous.”
Dartmouth’s losses this season come from Trinity, No. 2 Penn and No. 8 Columbia, the latter two of which the Bulldogs defeated 6–3 and 7–2, respectively. A pair of wins this weekend is also critical for the men to secure a favorable seeding in the upcoming national tournament that begins on Feb. 26, Saunders said.
Saunders also believes that the women’s match against No. 11 Dartmouth (4–8, 0-–5) will be a strong opportunity for the team to come back after a pair of losses against No. 2 Penn and No. 3 Princeton, and for the players to work on their games in preparation for No. 1 Harvard (8–0, 5–0).
Harvard has the decidedly strongest roster in the nation this year — the undefeated team’s closest match was a 6–3 win over Penn, which recently beat Yale 9–0. Despite the difficult competition, No. 1 player Jenny Scherl ’17 refused to be disheartened heading into the Sunday matchup.
“It ain’t over till it’s over,” Scherl said.
Yale faces more favorable odds against Dartmouth, a team Saunders believes the women can beat convincingly. The Big Green has yet to collect a win against an Ivy competitor this season, and the two highest-ranked teams Dartmouth has beaten are No. 8 George Washington and No. 12 Williams.
Due to the excitement surrounding Yale’s rivalry contest against Harvard, as well as the title implications for the men and the fact that the match comes on alumni weekend for the Yale squash programs, the Bulldogs are expecting a large turnout at the Brady Squash Center.
“Regardless of how this weekend plays out, we are very proud of both teams,” said Saunders said . “Not all of a team’s accomplishments can be seen in the wins and losses column. This year the amount of personal growth we have seen in our players both on and off the court has been astounding … We really hope that this weekend and the national championship weekend will see our teams’ hard work rewarded.”
The men and women open play at 4 p.m. this Friday at Dartmouth.