The No. 6 women’s squash team played a pair of matches against powerhouses this week, falling to No. 3 Trinity on Jan. 18 but bouncing back by narrowly prevailing against No. 5 Stanford on Jan. 21.
The formerly undefeated Bulldogs (8–1, 2–0 Ivy) came up short against the Bantams (9–1, 0–0 NESCAC) in a 1–8 demolition, with only No. 8 Selena Maity ’18 able to grab a match from her Trinity opponent.
This defeat was the Elis’ first of the year, leaving Harvard as the lone Ivy League team to remain undefeated on the season. The Yale players, however, kept their memories short, playing well all around against the Cardinal (3–3) just three days later. Fueled by clutch victories by No. 1 Jenny Scherl ’17 and captain and No. 4 Shiyuan Mao ’17, the Elis edged out the higher-ranked Stanford team by a 5–4 margin.
“We played well against Trinity although we lost,” Mao said. “We took the loss in our stride, took the lessons that we learned and improved for our match against Stanford. I’m glad that paid off.”
Prior to the match against Trinity, the Bulldogs had been favored to win every match they played. Their six previous victories had come against lower-ranked teams, and the Bantams proved to be Yale’s first real test of the season. Though the Elis lost by a decisive margin, several of the players put together notable performances.
Aside from Maity, both Scherl and No. 7 Emily Sherwood ’19 pushed their opponents to four games. Against top competitor Raneem Sharaf, Scherl battled in the top spot, taking the second game out of four and was only outscored 32–38 in the entire match. Meanwhile, Sherwood also took the first game in her matchup against Trinity’s Salma El Defrawy before conceding the ensuing three by narrow 7–11, 9–11 and 8–11 margins.
For Sherwood, along with six other teammates, losses to Trinity represented the first individual defeats of their respective seasons. The rest of the Bulldogs were swept in three games, marking the fifth straight year that Yale has dropped its annual meeting against Trinity.
Traveling to California to take on Stanford, the Elis looked to avoid a second straight road loss. No. 2 Lucy Beecroft ’20 and No. 3 Celine Yeap ’19 easily took care of business to put the Bulldogs on the right foot, sweeping their opponents in three straight games.
While Beecroft and Yeap thrived at the top of the ladder, other matchups proved tougher battles for the Bulldogs. Sherwood, Maity and No. 5 Jen Davis ’18 all forced their opponents to four games but were unable to emerge on top. Though No. 9 Jessica Yacobucci ’20 added a fourth loss to the Yale ledger in three games, two of which were decided 9–11, No. 6 Jocelyn Lehman ’18 kept Yale near level with a tough five-game victory.
With the Elis trailing 3–4, it was the two seniors who decided the team’s fate. Scherl, down 2–1 in her match, overcame an 8–3 deficit in her fourth game by scoring eight straight points on her opponent. Following that performance, the New Jersey native came out on top, 12–10, in the fifth game to tie up the match score at four apiece. Mao secured the victory for Yale minutes later, winning her match 8–11, 13–11, 12–10, 11–9.
The victory over Stanford marked the Bulldog’s first upset this season as well as a victory for Yale coach Dave Talbott over his brother, Cardinal coach Mark Talbott. The Eli win is a good sign for the team, which will have to battle more highly ranked opponents as it enters the second half of Ivy League play.
“Our team is realizing that we have the potential to really compete, if not beat, some of the teams ranked ahead of us, like Princeton, Penn and Harvard, that we thought may have been out of reach earlier in the year,” Yacobucci said.
Yale is now currently tied atop the Ancient Eight standings beside Harvard, with both teams holding matching 3–0 conference records. However, the Bulldogs still fall below the No. 1 Crimson, as well as No. 2 Penn and No. 4 Princeton, in the national rankings. Yale will face all three in February after a trip to Drexel on Jan. 27 and to George Washington on Jan. 28.