The Yale women’s squash team aims to build off of a third-place finish at the Ivy Scrimmages two weekends as it open the 2016–2017 season this Saturday against host Franklin & Marshall.

The No. 6 Bulldogs’ finish matched their performance from last year’s Scrimmages. The Elis opened play with a decisive 9–0 victory over No. 8 Cornell before falling by the same margin to No. 1 Harvard. In the final matchup of the Scrimmages, the women claimed their second 9–0 win of the weekend against No. 7 Columbia.

“Despite our loss to Harvard, we learned a lot from the Scrimmages and know what to improve on moving forward,” captain Shiyuan Mao ’17 said. “I think the players know that we really have to work on our strength and fitness from now till January. We are definitely stronger this year compared to last year, and we hope to come in top three in the nation.”

Heading into the weekend, the Bulldogs are heavily favored to win their season openers against F&M (1–2), which is ranked 14th in the nation. Historically, the Diplomats have posed little challenge for Yale: Last season the Bulldogs made quick work of F&M with a 8–1 tally, and in the three proceeding contests Yale trounced their counterparts 9–0.

Looking back further, the Elis have not lost a match to F&M since 1988. This season marks the third year in a row the Bulldogs will open against the Diplomats.

“In the past we have been successful against F&M and are looking forward to finally getting the season underway,” No. 1 Jenny Scherl ’17 said. “This match is a great opportunity for the team — especially freshmen — to get nerves out without Ivy implications. Since the season is so short, it’s important that we start getting our momentum going as early as we can.”

The team opens Ivy play next Tuesday when it hosts Brown and then does not compete again until January. Between Jan. 9 and Jan. 28, Yale faces the formidable trial of competing in eight successive road contests.

Worse yet, the team will travel across the country to Stanford for the first time in program history on Jan. 21. In early February, the Bulldogs will host Princeton, Penn and Dartmouth before heading to Harvard for their season closer on Feb. 12.

Although the Elis’ schedule includes key matches against the top teams in the nation — No. 1 Harvard, No. 2 Penn, No. 3 Trinity, No. 4 Princeton and No. 5 Stanford — Yale plans to improve upon its No. 5 finish from last year (13–5, 4–3 Ivy), and is posed to do just that.

“I think the team showed at scrimmages that we are much stronger than last year,” Scherl said. “We have two freshmen in the top four — playing two and four — that are forces to be reckoned with. Besides the addition of these freshmen to the top of the lineup, every single person has improved dramatically since the end of last season. We are looking to reach the final of the National Championship and of course take home the title.”

Last season the women graduated Georgia Blatchford ’16 and captain Annie Ballaine ’16, who played Nos. 5 and 4 on the roster, respectively. Their losses, however, are offset by the addition of new talent that has already made an impact on the roster.

In the Scrimmages, freshmen Lucy Beecroft ’20 and Helen Teegan ’20 played No. 2 and 4, respectively, while classmate Jessica Yaccobucci ’20 is expected to make an impact this season as well.

Also returning to the lineup are prominent contributors Jennifer Davis ’18, Jocelyn Lehman ’18, Selena Maity ’18, Emily Sherwood ’19, Madeline Tomlinson ’17 and Celine Yeap ’19.

Yale will open play against F&M at 12 p.m. at the Brady Squash Center.