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After one of the most successful regular seasons in recent history, the Yale women’s squash team finished its campaign on Saturday after a loss to No. 2 Princeton in the second round of the College Squash Association National Team Championships. This loss followed a first-round victory in a repeat of its regular season win against No. 6 Stanford.

This weekend, Yale’s Brady Squash Center hosted the top eight teams in women’s college squash as they competed in the Howe Cup division. The No. 3 Bulldogs (14–4, 5–2 Ivy) had a stellar regular season campaign in the lead up to the tournament, winning 12 of their 15 games. This record was the Elis’ best since 2014 and included a win over No. 4 Trinity (15–5, 0–0 NESCAC), Yale’s first since 2012. The squad ultimately finished the playoffs ranked third.

“This weekend was the perfect end to an amazing season and every player stepped up their game to secure some amazing victories,” Aishwarya Bhattacharya ’21 said.

Headed into the tournament, the top eight, in order, were No. 1 Harvard (17–0, 7–0), Princeton, Yale, Trinity, No. 5 Penn (8–8, 4–3), Stanford, No. 7 Drexel (12–8, 2–0 Colonial) and No. 8 Columbia (11–7, 4–3). During the regular season, the Bulldogs posted a 5–3 record against this field, dropping games against the Crimson, the Tigers and a soul-crushing 5–4 loss against the Lions with first-seed Lucy Beecroft ’20 injured.

First on the team’s postseason docket was a match against No. 6 Stanford. Yale entered the match with a chip on its shoulder after the Cardinals’ 5–4 upset win over the Bulldogs in the first round of last year’s College Squash Association championships. This game featured both an intercollegiate and inter-familial rivalry. Stanford’s Director of Squash Mark Talbott is the brother of Yale Director of Squash David Talbott and was a former member of Yale’s coaching staff before leaving to promote squash in California.

Last month, the Elis posted a 6–3 win against the Cardinals in a convincing performance. In that match, as with many others this season, Beecroft’s stellar play was essential to the team’s success. Beecroft, No. 7 Riya Mital ’21 and No. 9 Nikita Joshi ’21 shut out their opponents with three-set sweeps. In this contest and others this season, the team’s depth has proven indispensable, especially at the seven and eight seeds. The Stanford tilt also featured stellar play from the team’s first years, a consistent feature throughout the Bulldogs’ wins this season.

The Yale-Stanford matchup was the closest of the first day, ending with a 5–4 score in favor of the Bulldogs. This margin makes the game seem even closer than the team’s levels of play indicated. On the back of two extra-point, five-set wins early on, Yale jumped out to an early 5–1 lead. The top three seeds of each team intensely battled it out, with all of them taking five games to decide. Three-set sweeps from Alexis Lazor ’21 and Joshi at seeds eight and nine sealed the deal for the Elis.

“I’m really proud of the way our team played this weekend, start to finish,” Mital said. “The match results showed how each spot on the ladder carries equal weight, and everyone did their piece to contribute to the team’s success.”

Day two brought another regular season rematch against Princeton. Earlier this month, the Yale women lost 6–3 to the Tigers. On Saturday, the Yale women jumped out to an early 2–1 lead in the first wave of matches, with the support of a riotous home crowd. The Tigers took the next three, and, despite the continued stellar play of Beecroft, walked away with a 6–3 win.

In the consolation round, Yale performed true to its seeding in the competition for third place against Trinity, securing a 5–4 victory on the back of 3–0 wins from Beecroft, Mital, and Joshi. This makes 2020 Yale’s most successful postseason finish for women’s squash since 2014.

“We were thrilled to get the better of Stanford and round that off with a resounding win over Trinity again,” Bhattacharya said. “We dedicate this victory to our seniors Lucy Beecroft, who was on fire to win all 3 of her matches, and Jessica Yaccobucci [’20] who has been a solid foundation for the team this year.”

On Sunday, Princeton and Harvard met in the finals, with many hoping that the contest would bring an end to Harvard’s seemingly unstoppable championship streak. After a top-flight performance from Princeton in the regular season, Harvard’s then 70-game winning streak looked to be in jeopardy. The doubts didn’t last long, however, as Harvard stepped to a 3–0 lead before finally walking away with a 6–1 win and a sixth straight national championship.

The CSA Men’s National Team Championships will be held this weekend in Boston.

 

Matthew Cline | matthew.cline@yale.edu