Entering the Howe Cup, the No. 5 women’s squash squad (11–4, 4–3 Ivy) is gearing up to take on No. 4 Princeton (11–3, 5–2) in the first round of the national tournament this Friday, Feb. 24.
The Bulldogs will be traveling to Princeton looking to avenge an earlier loss. In their previous matchup on Feb. 4, the Bulldogs narrowly fell to the Tigers by a 5–4 margin. Despite taking all of the top four spots during that match for the first time in head coach Dave Talbott’s tenure, the Elis were unable to take advantage, losing the latter five. A revenge win against Princeton would take the Bulldogs to the Howe Cup semifinals for the first time since 2014, when the Elis beat the Tigers 5–4.
“Our last match against [Princeton] was super close, and if just one game had gone the other way we would have won,” No. 7 Emily Sherwood ’19 said. “Knowing this, we’re mentally going into the match with confidence. We’re not discouraged by the loss two weeks ago, and we’re ready to take them on in their home court.”
Yale will look to its No. 1 player, Jenny Scherl ’17, to lead the team. Scherl, has been at the top of the ladder for the Bulldogs the entire season, and was recently named one of three finalists for the Richey Award, which goes to the player “who best exemplifies the ideals of squash in her love of and devotion to the game, her strong sense of fairness and her excellence of play and leadership,” according to a press release by the College Squash Association.
In the previous meeting with the Tigers, Scherl defeated a Princeton player for the first time in her career, sweeping her opponent, Olivia Fletcher, 11–8, 11–9, 11–5. A repeat performance will be critical for a Yale victory.
“Being named a finalist for the Richey Award is an incredible honor,” Scherl said. “I have had phenomenal coaches and role models in high school and at Yale who emphasized the importance of sportsmanship, and this recognition of being named a finalist I completely owe to them. To me, this is the perfect way to cap off an incredible four years of college squash and a part of the Yale women’s squash team.”
In the second spot, No. 2 Lucy Beecroft ’20, who has played well all season, will take on Maria Elena Ubina, another of the three Richey Award finalists. In their earlier go-round, Sherwood overpowered Ubina in four close rounds, all of them ending within a three-point margin.
No. 3 Celine Yeap ’19 and No. 4 Shiyuan Mao ’17 also defeated their matchups in the last clash. Yeap won in a five-game battle featuring a 13–11 final game. If these two, along with the top two spots, can maintain their previous results, then the Elis will only need one player from the lower five rungs on the ladder to overcome their opponent.
“We’re pumped to play Princeton again in the first round of the Howe Cup,” Mao said. “We’ve stepped up our game since we last played them, and it’s really a matter of confidence and drive on the day itself. We are good enough to beat them, and we just have to believe in ourselves.”
While No. 5 Jen Davis ’18, No. 6 Jocelyn Lehman ’18 and No. 9 Madeline Tomlinson ’17 all fell in three games in the previous match, they can attempt to rebound on Friday. The final two, No. 7 Sherwood and No. 8 Selena Maity ’18, lost in four games.
Princeton is hosting the entire Howe Cup weekend, which pits the top eight teams in the country against one another for the national championship. If Yale is able to defeat the Tigers at their home, the Elis will move on to face the winner of the match between No. 1 Harvard and No. 8 Columbia on Saturday.
“We have been working hard for sure and are definitely more prepared going into this Friday,” Yeap said.
Last season, the fifth-seeded Elis were knocked out of the Howe Cup in the quarterfinals by Trinity.
A victory over Princeton would mark the Bulldogs’ first win over a team ranked in the nation’s top four this year.