Tag Archive: W. Squash

  1. Olympic fencer inspires Elis


    “As one of Yale’s best athletes and best fencer, she is a true inspiration to the team,” fencing team captain Shiv Kachru ’12 said of Sada Jacobson ’06, who took home the silver medal in saber from the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

    Jacobson, the first U.S. woman, the first U.S. saberist and the second U.S. fencer to rank number one in the world, has won two world championships and an additional Olympic bronze medal.

    At Yale, the history major is remembered for her dedication to the sport and her ability to balance academics and athletics.

    “She had a very positive influence on me because she was the truly classy fencer, and I learned how to act on strip by following her example,” saberist Maddie Oliver ’13 said.

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    Oliver, who has fenced with Jacobson in her hometown of Atlanta, said Jacobson was a strong technical fencer who worked hard and never gave up. She added that by watching Jacobson, she wanted to be able to execute effective combination of technique and drive just like her.

    During her time at Yale, Jacobson’s daily schedule moved like clockwork: she went to the seventh floor of Payne Whitney at 7:30 a.m. for morning practice and returned to the very same spot in the afternoon at 3:30 p.m. for regular workout.

    Every weekend, she made pilgrimages to New York to keep herself in the game by practicing at the Fencers Club, a bigger club with national-level male fencers.

    “It was definitely a challenge to balance with academics, but everybody in the team enjoyed fencing and was very dedicated,” Jacobson said.

    Becoming an accomplished saberist was in the works for Jacobson from birth. Her father, David Jacobson ’78, was a member of the U.S. national saber team back in 1974. In 1996, foilist Peter Devine ’99 and Yale head coach Henry Harutunian stayed at Jacobson’s house for the Atlanta Olympics to be held that year. That fateful experience ultimately motivated her to step into the world of fencing, she said.

    At the age of 14, accompanied by her sister Emily, Jacobson went to Atlanta to join Nellya Fencers and, before the sisters knew it, they were already immersed in serious training.

    After a long period of training at Nellya, Jacobson went on to continue her fencing career at Yale.

    “She is a symbol to us of the type of person that a Yale fencer can be — smart, hardworking, successful and independent, but also a good teammate,” Oliver said.

    Although Jacobson said Yale may not have had the largest recruiting class or financial support, she considers herself lucky to have been a Bulldog for her family ties, Yale’s coach Henry Harutunian and the University’s academic opportunities.

    Jacobson stressed that her experience at Yale had been simply unforgettable. She said that she was able to fence freely and hone her skills with all the support she needed from her teammates. She said she cannot forget Harutunian’s inexhaustible devotion and dedication and recalls eating pizza with him after practice.

    It was during her time at Yale that Jacobson truly shined. She received numerous individual honors and was instrumental in winning the NCAA Championships in women’s saber for Yale in 2001 and 2002.

    “She was already a top fencer when she came to Yale, so I just gave her small suggestions,” Harutunian said.

    Yale had a weak saber squad back then, Harutunian said, so Jacobson had to practice at a lower level and had difficulties showing her full potential.

    Harutunian added that Jacobson, who was a leader with dignity, was so busy with international, domestic and collegiate matches that she was considered “untouchable” among the team.

    “I said if there is to be the first female U.S. president, it will be her in her law school recommendation letter,” Harutunian said.

    In 2000, Jacobson won the Budapest World Championships. Soon after the 2002 NCAA Championships, she took a leave of absence from college to prepare for her first Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, also the first time women’s individual saber fencing was represented.

    Because her sister Emily also qualified for the Olympics, people often called them the “Serena and Venus Williams of fencing.” Sada Jacobson had to concede defeat in a close 15–12 loss to Tan Xue of China in the semi-finals, but she succeeded in taking the bronze by overwhelming Romania’s Catalina Gheorhitoaia 15–7.

    Not long after the Games, Jacobson became the first U.S. woman saberist and second U.S. fencer to rank number one in the world. Only a year after her first Olympics, she again displayed her prowess by notching another gold medal at the Leipzig World Championships.

    Fencing in two different major international contests gave her diverse perspectives on the sport, Jacobson said.

    “In championships, you tend to meet strong field of fencers,” she said. “Olympics is more high-pressured. Since it is only once in four years and is more selective and competitive than the championships, it means so much.”

    Despite the immense pressure, Jacobson said she felt no particular anxiety once the games got rolling and fenced as she had always fenced.

    After graduating from Yale, Jacobson returned to Nellya Fencers and continued training full time to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She started off as the top seed and defeated Russia’s Sofiya Velikaya 15–11 in the semifinals to secure the silver. In the finals, Jacobson lost 15–8 to fellow American and defending gold medalist Mariel Zagunis.

    But Jacobson she did not stop there. She competed with rival Zagunis in the team saber round to bring home the bronze medal for the United States.

    Living in the Olympics village was another memorable experience, Jacobson said, because she was surrounded by athletes and had the opportunity to learn about other sports.

    “I still remember I could not go to the opening ceremony since we had a match the next day, and what was amazing to me was that I could see the famous athletes that I saw on television right next to me,” Jacobson said.

    Back in Jacobson’s time at Yale, the Elis had been an especially formidable team with about seven recruits, roughly the same number the team has now. She said Columbia, a team which continues to best Yale at meets, was always a looming threat. Jacobson’s sister Emily fenced for Columbia.

    When asked to give some advice to the current Eli fencers, Jacobson emphasized hard work. She encouraged the players to push themselves past their preconceived capabilities.

    “Do not put any limits on yourself. Then you will be very surprised at yourself,” Jacobson said.

    Two years ago, she competed with fellow Yalies at a fencing alumni event, although she retired from fencing at age 25.

    Looking back on her career, Jacobson said fencing gave her many opportunities to meet people from around the world and to forge friendships she has kept.

    “Everything I do, I relate to [my] fencing experience, since it is such an important part of my life,” she said.

    Jacobson even married a fencer, épéeist Brendan Brunelle Baby, a member of three NCAA championship teams. And like her father before her, she hopes to continue the family legacy.

    “I hope that my children will fence one day, too,” Jacobson said.

    Jacobson graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2011 and passed her bar exam in July that year.

  2. W. SQUASH | Tournament run ends with Harvard

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    Before the women’s team squash national championships began on Friday, all the divisional winners from the previous year returned their trophies so that the hardware would be available for this year’s winners. Not Yale. The Elis, who entered the weekend as defending champions but ranked No. 2 in the country, were not about to give up their title willingly.

    Yale (17–2, 6–1 Ivy) advanced easily through the first two rounds of the tournament but succumbed to No. 1 Harvard (17–0, 7–0) in the finals Sunday in an encore of last year’s national title match. The Elis had pushed the Cantabs to the limit when they lost the Ivy League championship to their archrivals by a 5–4 score in New Haven two weeks ago. Harvard came out in full force on home turf in Cambridge, Mass., Sunday and rolled to an 8–1 victory, sending the Elis home as the nation’s second-best team.

    “Harvard was higher ranked than us — their roster list has slightly higher ranked players,” said Shihui Mao ’15, who fell to Harvard’s Sarah Mumanachit in three games at the No. 7 spot. “They played really well, and we couldn’t match.”

    The weekend had started out strong for Yale, which played in the tournament’s most competitive bracket. The Elis kicked off with a sweep of No. 7 Cornell (12–8) on Friday, followed by a 7–2 rout of No. 3 Princeton (11–5) the next day. That success set up a meeting with Harvard, which had coasted into the finals with sweeps of No. 8 Dartmouth and No. 5 Trinity in the quarterfials and semifinals, respectively.

    The Crimson had finished their regular season with a perfect record, including the 5–4 win over Yale in New Haven. But Yale had finished with the upper hand the last time the two teams met with a national title at stake, having clinched last year’s national title with a 5-4 victory over the Cantabs in Princeton, N.J., last season.

    This time, however, the Crimson were too much for head coach David Talbott’s team to handle. Led by freshmen — and former world No. 17 — Amanda Sohby at the No. 1 spot, the Crimson overpowered their opponents with wins at the top eight spots.

    The Crimson took an early lead on Sunday. At No. 3, Nirasha Guruge took down Yale captain Rhetta Nadas ’12 in straight sets, and at No. 6 Gwendoline Tilghman ’14 fell to Harvard’s Natasha Kingshott by the same score, despite pushing her opponent to the brink in a hard-fought second game that she lost 19–17. At No. 9, however, Issey-Norman Ross ’15 took home a 3–0 victory to cut Harvard’s overall lead to 2–1.

    But Yale would not win another match.

    At No. 2, Kim Hay ’14 could not repeat her impressive upset of heavily-favored Laura Gemmell of Harvard from two weeks before, and fell in three sets. At No. 8, Lillian Fast ’14 also fell in a rematch with her Harvard opponent, falling to Julianne Chu — who she had beaten in five sets during the regular season — 3–1. Those two wins put Harvard up 4–1.

    The Crison celebration started soon after, as captain Cecilia Cortes’ 3–1 victory over Katie Ballaine ’13 gave the team an insurmountable 5–1 lead. Cortes’ teammates waited for their captain to shake hands and walk off the court with Ballaine before mobbing her in celebration.

    Games remained at No. 1, 4 and 7, but the vanquished Elis put up little fight. At No. 1, Millie Tomlinson ’14 lost in three sets. Alexandra Van Arkel ’12 at No. 4 and Mao at No. 7 were also defeated in straight sets.

    Next week, Yale will compete in the College Squash Association individual championships in Amherst, Mass.

  3. SQUASH | Elis finish sixth in nation

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    PRINCETON, N.J.: Ranked No. 1 in the nation for two weeks during the season, the Bulldogs entered the Men’s College Squash Association National Team Championships with high hopes. The season highlight, a win over Trinity that broke a historic 252-game winning streak, indicated Yale squash was on its way to top. But the Elis left Princeton, N.J., in a disappointing sixth place.

    The Bulldogs were seeded No. 3 entering the tournament, but started off on the wrong foot with an 8–1 loss to No. 6 Cornell on Friday. The Elis followed with a 6–3 victory over No. 7 Dartmouth on Saturday, but finished off the weekend with a loss to No. 5 Rochester 5–4. Captain Ryan Dowd ’12 said the team had hoped to win the tournament, and the losses were especially painful for the seniors.

    “We were expecting a tough weekend. The odds weren’t with us to win it all, but it was definitely possible,” Dowd said. “There are just so many good teams that are all really close in ability, so it could have been any of those teams that won.”

    On Friday, the Bulldogs were down 3–0 after the first round of matches against Cornell. Ned Martin ’14 and Joseph Roberts ’15 lost 3–1 at No. 6 and No. 9 respectively, while Ricky Dodd ’13 played out five games but lost narrowly by a 3–2 margin at No. 3.

    No. 7 Robby Berner ’12, who defeated Cornell’s Owen Butler in four games, recorded Yale’s only win against Cornell. Hywel Robinson ’13 came back after three weeks with a torn ligament in his toe to play at No. 2 but ended up reinjuring himself. Head coach Dave Talbott said regardless of the injury, the team just couldn’t come back from a 3–0 deficit.

    Robinson added that he hopes to both recover 100 percent from his injury and best his coach in a squash match before the start of next season.

    “You know, we played spotty yesterday, and Cornell played really strong,” Talbott said. “[The Big Red] played as well as they could’ve possibly played, and we didn’t match it. We got a little bit tight trying to come back. It’s really hard to win when you’re already down 3–0. It gives you no margin for error.”

    On Saturday, the Bulldogs managed to pull a 6–3 victory over a No. 7 Dartmouth. All four seniors — No. 3 John Roberts ’12, No. 4 Dowd, No. 6 Berner and No. 7 Samuel Clayman ’12 — won their matches against the Big Green, whereas Friday only Berner was able to secure a victory.

    No. 9 Eric Caine ’14 and No. 5 Martin both swept their matches in three games apiece.

    John Roberts said he was proud of the way the team came back against Dartmouth after losing the previous day to Cornell.

    “I thought we played pretty well,” he said. “We fought really well, and it felt good to get a win especially after our loss and still feeling the effects from that. We came back firing.”

    On Sunday, Yale went up against No. 5 Rochester and fell 5–4 in a close match. At No. 1, Kenneth Chan ’13 lost 3–0 after a match of long rallies, and No. 2 Dodd also suffered a losing sweep. The middle of the ladder, Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 , came out on top, with Berner winning at No. 6 in a tight 3–2 match. Clayman, Roberts and Caine all lost 3–2 at No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 respectively.

    Clayman said the team suffered losses at the bottom of the ladder, as it adjusted the lineup to fill the spots for the injured Robinson and Charlie Wyatt ’14.

    “We were a little thinner than we usually are because our No. 2 [Robinson] is injured,” Clayman said. “Our 2-9 spots all had to shift, and it really showed when we lost 7, 8 and 9 all in five games.”

    He added that during the season, Yale bested Rochester in a close 5–4 match even when the entire Yale ladder was healthy.

    Everyone in the top nine said Berner was the strongest presence on the court for Yale. Berner came out of the weekend with a perfect 3–0 record.

    Walk-on Sam Shleifer ’15 was given a chance to play at No. 10, his first competitive collegiate match, and split his two matches after five games each.

    At least five to seven players on the Yale squad are expected to qualify for the individual national championships at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Dowd said.

  4. W. SQUASH | Harvard wins national championship rematch

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    The women’s squash team was leading Harvard, 4–3, with two games left in its match Sunday afternoon and the Ivy League title on the line.

    The two teams’ last regulation match had been the 2011 national championships, in which No. 2 Yale won a 5–4 nailbiter over the No. 1 Cantabs. But Harvard won in a preseason scrimmage this year and has held the national No. 1 ranking since. On Sunday, two weeks before national championsips, Yale (15-1, 6–1 Ivy) was looking to establish itself as the superior team. Harvard (14-0, 7–0), its co-captain and No. 3 Nirasha Guruge said, was looking for revenge.

    “Last year was a pretty bad loss,” Guruge said. “It motivated us to train harder and gave us the determination to come down here and get the championship back.”

    No matter the Cantabs’ desire for revenge, Yale rebounded from an early 2–1 deficit and built its late 4–3 lead with some surprising victories, including an upset by Kim Hay ’15 at the No. 2 spot and another by Katie Ballaine ’13 at No. 5.

    With the overall score at 4–3, the two remaining matches unfolded on neighboring courts, as spectators packed three-deep on the Brady Squash Center balcony and around the door to the court below. On one court, Shihui Mao ’15 contested the No. 7 spot with Harvard’s Sarah Mumanachit, a junior who had been on the losing end of the last — and deciding match — of the 2011 national championship against Yale. On the court next to Mao’s, Alexandra Van Arkel ’12 took on Harvard’s Haley Mendez at the No. 4 spot. One victory in those two matches would clinch the match for Yale.

    But neither could convert. Mao lost a five-game battle, Van Arkel lost 3–0 despite a close-fought final game, and the Elis fell to the Crimson, 5–4.

    “We worked all season to get today,” head coach David Talbott said. “We were in a position to win, and we just couldn’t close it.”

    Yale ran into difficulties early, going down 2–1 after the first three matches and watching captain Rhetta Nadas ’12 upset by Guruge, 3–1, at the No. 3 spot.

    Nadas faltered after taking her first game against Guruge, losing the next two by scores of 11–2 and 11–3. Though she was visibly tired in the fifth game, taking extra time between points to catch her breath, Nadas fought off three match balls, rallied back from a 10–7 deficit, and took an 11–10 lead that brought her within a point of forcing a decisive fifth game.

    But Guruge would win the next three points and the match, clinching the victory after Nadas missed a diving forehand near midcourt.

    Yale made up for that loss with an upset of its own, as Hay defeated former individual national champion Laura Gemmell in five games. Hay dropped two consecutive games to Gemmell, who entered the match with a 38–1 career college record, after having won the first, and looked visibly upset after the second loss, throwing her racquet to the floor before exiting the court. By the time she returned for the fourth game, however, she had calmed down.

    “The coaches talked with me and set my head straight,” Hay said. “They told me to play my game and not worry about anything else.”

    Hay stormed to victory in the next two games, clinching the match and tying the overall score between Harvard and Yale at 2–2.

    Yale had a setback at the No. 1 spot, where Millie Tomlinson ’14, last year’s individual college national champion lost to Harvard freshman phenomenon — and world No. 28 — Amanda Sobhy. But it received an important victory from Ballaine, who beat Harvard’s Natasha Kingshott in what Ballaine called the best game she has ever played.

    That victory set up Mao’s and Van Arkel’s crucial matches and put players on both teams on pins and needles as they watched from the sidelines.

    “It was a little bit of a heart attack there,” Harvard’s Sobhy said. “We all might have aged a bit.”

    “It was a lot of pressure on [Mao and Van Arkel].” Talbott said.

    The Crimson’s Mumanachit weathered that pressure, bouncing back after Mao forced a deciding fifth game and winning that fifth with a commanding 11–3 performance. Her victory tied the overall score, 4–4.

    And although Van Arkel staged a late rally after losing the first two games of her match, she could not convert on a game ball at 10–9 and went on to lose, 12–10. With that, Harvard won 5–4.

    “It was disappointing,” Ballaine said. “But we have another chance at national championships, and in the next two weeks we’re really going to gear up to win that.”

    On Friday, Yale coasted past No. 8 Dartmouth, 9–0. All but two Elis won their matches 3–0. Tomlinson led the way with a sweep of Dartmouth No. 1 Corey Schaefer. Nadas ran into trouble early, dropping her first game, but bounced back to capture the next three in a row.

    CSA National Team Championships will be held in two weeks at Harvard.

    Charles Condro contributed reporting.

  5. SQUASH | Women’s squash still perfect

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    After a fairytale start to the season that included a momentous victory over Trinity, the men’s squash team fell back to earth when it was demolished by No. 3 Princeton, 8-1, Saturday. However, the men’s team bounced back and won its Sunday match against No. 10 Penn to finish the weekend with a 12–1 record. The women’s team, meanwhile, defeated both of its opponents — No. 5 Princeton and No. 4 Penn — to remain undefeated and set up a showdown next weekend with No. 1 Harvard.

    On Saturday at Princeton, the women’s team won the No. 1, No. 3-5, and No. 7-9 spots to seal the match 7–2. At the No. 1 spot, Millie Tomlinson ’14 defeated her opponent in a hard-fought five sets. Having lost the first set, Tomlinson won the next two, but lost the fourth, only to clinch victory in the final set. At No. 2, Kim Hay ’14 lost her match 3–0. The other loss was at the No. 6 spot Gwen Tilghman ’14, who also lost three straight sets.

    However, the men’s team lost 8–1 to Princeton despite several hard-fought matches. Captain Ryan Dowd ’12 went back and forth a full five sets with his opponent at the No. 5 spot, but lost the final set. Robert Berner ’12 at No. 7 took an early 2–0 lead, but his opponent gained momentum and took the next three sets for the win. The only match won was at No. 9 with Joseph Roberts ’15, who swept the first three sets. Roberts was called up into the lineup this weekend in the important game against Princeton.

    “It was sad to see the team lose,” Roberts said. “We are just trying to get back on track now and be ready for Nationals in two weeks.”

    No. 2 player Hywel Robinson ‘14 added that while the loss was a huge disappointment, it is important for the team to move on and make sure the rest of the season goes smoothly.

    Getting back on track from Saturday’s 1–8 defeat, the Elis defeated the No. 10 Quakers 8–1 on Sunday. Kenneth Chan ’13 lost his match at No. 1, but the rest of the matches were one-sided in Yale’s favor. In spots 3–7, the Elis all won 3–0.

    The women’s match against Penn was much closer. In the first round of matches, Tilghman won 3–0 at No. 6, but Issey Norman-Ross ’15 lost hers, in a drawn-out 5-set affair. Captain Rhetta Nadas ’12 helped the Elis take the lead by winning her 5-set match at No. 3. In the second round, the women’s team took wins at No. 2 and No. 8, but lost at No. 5. Despite having a 4–2 lead going into the final round of matches, the Quakers won at the No. 7 and No. 4 spot, tying the overall score. However, Tomlinson, who is also the defending national champion, swept her No. 1 spot match 3–0 and won the overall match for the Elis 5–4.

    Women’s squash team member Charlotte Dillon ’14 said that both matches were exciting, with Sunday’s match particularly close.

    The Elis will face Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H., next Friday, and Harvard at home on Sunday.

  6. SQUASH | Elis continued undefeated run


    After last Wednesday’s historic defeat of Trinity College, the Yale’s men’s and women’s squash teams continued their undefeated rampage this weekend.

    Friday, the No. 2 men’s team traveled to Rochester, N.Y., and defeated the No. 11 University of Western Ontario. Then, on Saturday, the team returned to the Brady Squash Center to host the No. 4 University of Rochester and won a close victory, which brought the Elis’ season record to 9–0.

    Meanwhile, the No. 2 women’s team traveled to South Hadley, Mass., for the Pioneer Invitational, where it defeated No. 12 Mount Holyoke, No. 22 Colby and No. 20 Wesleyan. The wins brought the Elis’ perfect season to 10–0. Yale won every match.

    Last year’s individual championships winner Millie Tomlinson ’14 played her usual No. 1 spot against Mount Holyoke and Wesleyan, but in the matches against schools that are not as competitive as Yale’s usual opponents, head coach David Talbott sometimes decided to move more players up to the top nine.

    “Although only nine players compete in each match, we have 18 players on the team who all play an equally important role,” Tomlinson said. “Our team [has] incredible depth, and I feel that we are very strong all the way down the ladder.”

    Tomlinson added that every member is motivated to achieve the team’s goal of a second consecutive national championship this season.

    The teams to watch out for include Penn, Princeton, Harvard and Trinity, Tomlinson said. Earlier this season, Yale lost to Harvard in an Ivy scrimmage’s final, but Tomlinson said the team took the loss as motivation to improve for the regular season.

    Against Western Ontario, the men’s team mostly followed their usual lineup, but Joseph Roberts ’15 played No. 9 instead of Charlie Wyatt ’14. Yale won the contest 8–1.

    But on Saturday against Rochester the score came much closer. Yale managed to win five matches early on, but Rochester held the final score at 5–4.

    The Elis fought hard to win at the No. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 spots. At the No. 3 spot, Yale’s Richard Dodd ’13 played Rochester’s Adam Perkiomaki in a close match that went to five games. Rochester took an 8–1 lead in the first game, but Dodd came back for a 12–10 overtime victory.

    Similar Yale comebacks were scattered throughout the evening. Having lost his first two sets, Yale’s No. 6 Neil Martin ’14 won the next three to take the match.

    No. 2 Hywel Robinson ’14 also managed to come back from a 0–2 start and win the next three sets.

    But not every player managed to come back from a rough start. At the No. 9 spot Wyatt lost 0–3 to Rochester’s Juan Pablo Gaviria. At No. 8, Rochester’s Mohamed Maksoud defeated Yale’s Sam Clayman ’12 3–1.

    At the No. 5 spot, captain Ryan Dowd ’12 swept his set 3–0 against Rochester’s Matt Domenick. Dowd brought Yale’s score to 4–2. No. 7 Robert Berner ’12 finished the meet when he also swept his match.

    The Yellowjackets also showed themselves capable of sweeping sets and took two matches 3–0, including the No. 1 spot.

    Dowd said he was happy with the outcome overall.

    “Our season so far has been great. We won a few big matches — Cornell, Trinity and Rochester — 5–4, and that is a huge start,” Dowd said. “We need to continue the rest of the season and play with more confidence at the beginning of the match.”

    Dowd added that the Elis have yet to play two of their toughest opponents, Princeton and Harvard.

    Playing out his last season, Dowd added that he is confident the younger players will carry on Yale’s tradition of squash excellence.

    “We have a few young guys who are just really great. Neil Martin and Charlie Wyatt, who usually play at six and nine, both pulled some great wins,” Dowd said.

    Next Tuesday, both teams will take on Brown in Providence, R.I.

  7. Squash Haven supports Elm City youths


    On Tuesday afternoon in Brady Squash Center on the fourth floor of Payne Whitney Gymnasium, all 15 courts were filled with young squash players.

    Within the walls of each court, athletes could be seen alternating hitting a small rubber ball with their rackets against the front wall, which created resounding thuds that echoed throughout the facility.

    But the majority of the young players weren’t college students — they were elementary and high school students from the New Haven community.

    The children are all part of Squash Haven, an academic and athletic enrichment program that serves students from the Elm City. The program currently provides 70 students, ranging from fourth to 10th grade, with free after-school tutoring, mentoring and squash training at Payne Whitney throughout the week.

    Founded in 2007, Squash Haven is one of 10 programs around the country that make up the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA), a network of urban squash programs, many of which are affiliated with universities. The programs partner with local schools where at least 70 percent of students’ families meet federal low-income thresholds, said Julie Greenwood, executive director of Squash Haven. She added that all of the students who graduate from these urban squash programs go on to four-year colleges.

    “We’re developing athletes, developing educational skills, and because it’s so small and intimate, what we’re really doing is supporting kids and families for a long period of time,” Greenwood said.

    The combination of academic and athletic support Squash Haven offers makes the program popular among New Haven families. But admission to the program is competitive. Students interested in joining Squash Haven must go through a rigorous application process that includes a written application, parent interviews and teacher recommendations.

    Greenwood said the program looks for candidates who will apply themselves both on the court and in the classroom.

    “I think the most important variables from our perspective are motivation and commitment,” Greenwood said. “What we’re looking for are kids who are going to be motivated to do their best across settings.”

    Students in the program typically head to Payne Whitney after school at least three days a week. They usually begin with one-hour sessions on the squash court, followed by 15 minutes of fitness, 30 minutes of snack and announcements. The program typically ends with one hour of academic study and homework help.

    Many of the students who participate in Squash Haven knew nothing about the sport prior to joining the program.

    “I never heard of squash,” eighth-grader Moubarak Ouro-Aguy said. “I thought it was something to eat.”

    Thirteen-year-old Elaine Negron said she wanted to join Squash Haven in order to be able to travel.

    “My friends told me about it and all the cool trips they went to,” she said. “I didn’t travel that much, so I wanted to travel and play.”

    Greenwood and a small staff work full-time to run Squash Haven, but they also receive a lot of support from volunteer tutors, mentors and coaches, many of whom are Yale students. Yale Athletics donates both office space and court time to the program, while all members of the men’s and women’s squash team work one hour per week as coaches for the students.

    Millie Tomlinson ’14, a member of the women’s squash team, said she enjoys the opportunity to teach her sport to new players.

    “It’s nice to introduce new people to the sport,” Tomlinson said. “It’s nice to get more people playing squash and help younger kids learn how to play.”

    Not all Yale students involved with Squash Haven come from squash backgrounds.

    Emily Graham ’13 said she had never seen or played squash before coming to Yale, but that she decided to begin volunteering with Squash Haven at the beginning of her freshman year because she wanted to become involved in a tutoring program for New Haven youth.

    The staff and volunteers who form the core of Squash Haven have helped students find success. This past weekend, all 10 urban squash programs gathered in New York City to compete at the NUSEA Team Nationals. In the boys’ U15 division, Squash Haven finished in first place.

    The tournament also featured an essay contest in conjunction with the squash competitions. Two of Squash Haven’s students, sixth-grader Johanile Hurtado and ninth-grader Aaron Brevard, won the contest in their respective age groups for essays on perseverance. Both students earned the opportunity to read their essays at the tournament.

    “I was surprised because I’m never satisfied with my work,” Brevard said. “My voice was kind of shaky, but everybody said they liked it.”

    “My face turned red,” Hurtado said.

    Greenwood said she plans on expanding Squash Haven from its current 70 New Haven students to 100 over the next two years. Though running the program is a lot of work, Greenwood said the small daily rewards make directing Squash Haven and providing families with a “transformative experience” well worth the effort.

    Squash Haven was founded in 2006.

  8. W. SQUASH | Elis defeat Harvard for national title

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    Ranked second in the nation all season, on Sunday the women’s squash team finally proved that they deserved to be on top.

    In a repeat of last week’s contest for the Ancient Eight crown, the Elis defeated formerly top-ranked Harvard (11–2, 5–1) with the same score as last weekend, 5–4, to win their first national title in five years.

    “A national championship, Ivy title, and undefeated season speaks for itself,” head coach Dave Talbott said. “It was the culmination of a great season,”

    En route to the Howe Cup title, Yale (17–0, 6–0 Ivy) also defeated No. 8 Dartmouth (9–8, 1–5) and No. 5 Princeton (10–5, 3–3) in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.

    “It feels incredible,” captain and 2011 Betty Richey Award recipient Logan Greer ’11 said. “As a freshman, I made it my goal to win a national championship. As a senior class, we have worked for four years with this end in mind. It is the best feeling in the world, finishing this season undefeated as a team, winning the Ivy League and national titles.”

    To begin their quest for the title, the Bulldogs took on the Big Green, who have struggled against Ivy League opponents.

    While Greer’s victory took five games, the rest of the team easily won in straight 3–0 matches.

    “Dartmouth was a great match to start with and get used to the courts,” Sarah Toomey ’11 said.

    Yale next took on the Tigers on Saturday. Princeton had the home court advantage in the tournament, and were able to pull off the upset against No. 4 Penn the previous night. The next day, Princeton gave the Bulldogs a much closer contest than earlier in the season when Yale won 7–2 at home.

    But the Elis still captured victory relatively easily with a 6–3 victory, led by Greer who won in straight games at the No. 1 position. Freshman Gwendoline Tilghman ’14 lost her second match of the year against Princeton in five closely contested games.

    “Princeton was playing much better squash this weekend than when we played them earlier in the season,” Toomey said. “Combined with their home court advantage, we had to play well to win, and it prepared us for the intensity of the final.”

    After last week’s match against Harvard, both teams knew they were in for a battle with the national title at stake.

    Lillian Fast ’14 and Toomey got Yale off to a quick 2–1 lead in the first set of matches against the Crimson. At the No. 6 position, Katie Ballaine ’13 lost in four close games, 1–3.

    In the next three matches, Yale won two out of the three contests with big wins from Mille Tomlinson ’14 and Rhetta Nadas ’12.

    Tomlinson won her match in straight games and finished her season undefeated. She was pushed to four games only once against No. 3 Trinity last month. Nadas, who according to Toomey had the best match of her career, pulled out a huge 3–2 victory for the Bulldogs.

    “Heading into the third game, I realized that my match was crucial for the win,” Nadas said. “At that moment, I just thought about the team and all we have given this season, and I was able to find the motivation to win in five games.”

    However, despite a 4–2 advantage going into the last three matches, Yale quickly found itself on the verge of defeat as Harvard tied the score at 4–4 with wins at the No. 1 and No. 7 positions.

    Greer pushed the No. 1 player in the nation Laura Gemmell to five games after being defeated in straight games last weekend. However, she was unable to pull of the win against Gemmell, who picked up her play on the final points in the match. Caroline Reigeluth ’11, who was the hero last weekend against Harvard, lost to Sarah Mumanachit at the No. 7 spot.

    The last match, between Kimberley Hay ’14 and the Crimson’s June Tiong, would decide the outcome.

    “Watching the rest of the team go on before me was definitely nerve-wrecking,” Hay admitted.

    Hay beat Tiong last weekend in straight games, but Tiong made it tougher for Hay on Sunday, forcing four games. Still, Hay came out victorious and sent Yale to its fourth national title in ten years.

    “It was an awesome feeling to be the one to clinch it and know that we had won,” Hay said. “But at the same time I knew how much effort that all of my team had put in and how much they wanted it so it was great to be able to win for them and share the experience with them.”

    Yale next heads to the College Squash Association individual championships in Hanover, N.H. on March 4.

  9. SQUASH | Three victories away from Howe title

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    After an undefeated regular season, the women’s squash team will look to extemd its win streak to 17 consecutive wins and a national championship this weekend.

    The No. 1 Elis (14–0, 6–0 Ivy) will begin its quest for the national CSA title at the Howe Cup against No. 8 Dartmouth (9–7, 1–5) on Friday. If they win, the Bulldogs will face either No. 4 Penn (7–3, 4–2) or No. 5 Princeton (9–4, 3–3) on Saturday. In the final, the Bulldogs could possibly have a rematch of last weekend’s thriller against No. 2 Harvard (9–1, 5–1).

    “This weekend is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our improvement,” captain Logan Greer ‘11 said. “All season we have worked to win a national championship and we now have the chance to accomplish that goal.”

    [ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”4863″ ]

    The match against Dartmouth should not be much of a challenge for Yale, who defeated the Big Green earlier in the season 6–3. However, Kimberley Hay ’14, who plays the No. 4 position, and Millie Tomlinson ’14, who has played at the No. 3 spot, did not play in that contest. Both players will be on the court this weekend.

    Tomlinson went undefeated during the regular season and was only pushed to four games one this season against No. 3 Trinity. She will be No. 2 on the Elis’ ladder behind Greer for the national tournament.

    “They have been solid all year, and all of them have been in pressure situations and responded well,” Caroline Reigeluth ‘11 said.

    The Bulldogs would then play either Princeton or Penn in the second round. Though the match against Princeton was a straightforward 7–2 win, the contest against Penn did not come as easily. They barely edged the Quakers in the opening match of the season, winning 5–4.

    Penn has swept Yale in each of the past four years, and this season was the first time Yale defeated the Quakers in regular season play.

    The freshmen made a big difference in the match. Lillian Fast ‘14 pulled out a huge win at the No. 5 spot in five games that would have otherwise set back the Bulldogs’ entire season. The Bulldogs would have had to settle for a share of the Ivy League title at best.

    “Beating those teams a second time will require immense focus and determination,” Greer said.

    The matches this weekend will test the consistency of the Bulldog team, who will have to compete in three tough matches in three consecutive days. The Elis could face Harvard again in the finals after its narrow 1 point victory over the Crimson last week.

    “We essentially have to be really consistent in every spot collectively over a three day period,” Reigeluth said. “As great as last weekend was, we can’t let down now. We have some challenging matches and everyone needs to contribute their piece.”

    Reigeluth was the hero of last weekend’s match against Harvard. With the match scored tied at 4–4 a piece, she fought her way to a five game victory, ensuring her team both the Ivy title and the No. 1 ranking.

    The team is looking to build off of last week’s success and does not want to lose focus of the task at hand. Greer stressed the importance of taking it one match at a time and concentrating on each individual match.

    “Being able to maintain the focus that we’ve had for the past six month,” Katie Ballaine ’13 said. “We’re coming off of an Ivy championship high, so we want to use this positive energy for a national title.”

    Yale’s match against Dartmouth begins at 4:30 p.m. in Princeton, N.J.

  10. W. SQUASH | Yale defeats defending champions for title

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    It came down to the very last match and the very last game, but it was Yale that ultimately prevailed.

    Caroline Reiegeluth ’11 took the fifth game of her match against the Crimson’s Sarah Mumanachit for the match victory, 5–4, and Yale’s first Ivy League title in seven years. The win (14–0, 5–0 Ivy) capped an undefeated regular season for the No. 2 Elis (14–0, 5–0), dethroning last year’s Ivy champs, No. 1 Harvard (9–1, 5–1).

    “This win was especially meaningful for the seniors,” captain Logan Greer ’11 said. “We’ve been working four years for this and it is amazing that we finally accomplished our goal of an Ivy League championship.”

    The contest began and Yale got off to a quick start winning two of the first three matches.

    Sarah Toomey’ 11 had a tough fought straight game victory at the No. 3 position. Toomey, a player who has had consistent strong performances this season, made use of shot variety and sped around the court to wear her opponent down.

    “This was the perfect culmination of four years of work,” Toomey said. “The team showed incredible determination to pull out such an important win on the road.”

    Playing away from home was not a difficult adjustment, according to Toomey. She said that there were a large number of Yale supporters and parents that neutralized the home court advantage for Harvard.

    However, Harvard evened the overall score by winning two of the next three matches. Gwendoline Tilghman ’14 lost her first match of the season in four games. After a 12–10 win in the first game, she was unable to keep the score close for the remainder of the match.

    Rhetta Nadas ’12 also lost her match in four games. After dropping the first game, Nadas won a marathon 19–17 second game. However, she ran out of steam and lost handily in the next two games.

    Millie Tomlinson ’11 continued her dominant performance this season with a comfortable win at the No. 2 position to finish the regular season undefeated.

    “She just played to her strengths and, after wearing her opponent down, forced her to make mistakes,” Greer said about Tomlinson’s match.

    The next match featured two of the strongest players in women’s squash at the No. 1 position, No. 3 Greer and Harvard’s No. 1 Laura Gemmell. However, the contest quickly became lopsided, as Greer lost the first game 11–0. Gemmell continued her dominating performances in the next two sets, winning both, 11–6 and 11–8.

    After Gemmell’s win, Harvard needed only one more match win to win the Ivy League title for the second consecutive year. But Yale would not be deterred.

    The pressure of keeping Yale’s hopes alive fell on freshman Kimberley Hay ’14. She did not let the situation affect her game as she eased past Harvard’s June Tiong and won in straight games.

    With the match tied at 4–4, Caroline Reigeluth ’11 took the court against Sarah Mumanachit in a match that would decide which team would be the Ivy League champion and take the No. 1 seed heading into the national championship tournament.

    Reigeluth dropped the first game 6–11, but she came storming back to win the second and third games, 11–7 and 11–6.

    “I knew I was the deciding match but I knew how hard the team was pulling for me,” Reigeluth said. “The support just reminded me to stick to my game plan and win it for the team. “

    But Mumanachit would not give up and edged Reigeluth in the fourth game, 9–11. In the fifth game, the senior’s experience made the difference as she fought her way to an 11–7 win, giving her team their first Ivy League title in seven years.

    “Ultimately it’s a team effort and it was just a coincidence that the last match came down to me,” Reigeluth said. “I am really happy that I was able to contribute but it took all 16 of us to win.”

    The Elis will now be the top ranked team going into the Howe Cup this weekend at Princeton.

  11. SQUASH | Title implications for squash

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    The men’s and women’s squash teams will head to Cambridge this Saturday to face Harvard in matches that have Ivy League title implications.

    The No. 2 men’s squash (12–1, 5–0 Ivy) will look to capture sole ownership of the league championship this week, as they have already won at least a share of the title with No. 3 Princeton after their win over No. 12 Brown and the Tiger’s defeat over No. 6 Harvard (7–3, 3–2) last weekend. A win against No. 1 Harvard (8–0, 5–0) for the No. 2 women’s team (13–0, 5–0) would give the Bulldogs their first Ivy League title in over five seasons and the No. 1 ranking going into the Howe Cup, the national championship that begins next weekend.

    “This is the position that we wanted to be in — to go to Harvard knowing that a win would mean an Ivy Title,” men’s captain Naishadh Lalwani ’11 said. “It’s great that we’ve been able to do that and now we just need to finish the job on Saturday.”

    The Bulldogs have had little trouble this season with Ivy League opponents except for a tightly contested 5–4 victory over No. 3 Princeton. Lalwani was the hero of that contest, coming through with the last match victory at the No. 4 position.

    Last year, the battle against the Crimson was one sided as Yale won 8–1. Harvard was unable to handle the depth of the Yale lineup, which Lalwani said has gotten even stronger this year.

    For Harvard, this weekend’s match against Yale will be a chance for redemption. Their loss to the Elis last season cost them a share of the Ivy League title.

    “It’s always tough playing Harvard away and we’re going to have to play our best if we want to win,” Lalwani said.

    For the women, this weekend’s match will be their biggest test of the season. Both Harvard, the defending national champions, and Yale are undefeated thus far, and the winner will take home the Ivy League title.

    The two teams faced off in the finals of the Ivy Scrimmages in the early stages of the season and Yale easily defeated Harvard, 6–3. Last year, the Crimson handily defeated Yale 7–2 in the regular season. In that match, the Bulldogs were given a huge beating, losing six matches in straight games.

    “We are playing for an Ivy League championship,” captain Logan Greer ’11 said. “We have worked toward this match all year and we are ready to step up and challenge Harvard.”

    Yale had a comfortable 9–0 victory over No. 10 Brown last weekend while Harvard defeated No. 3 Trinity, 7–2. The Elis defeated Trinity earlier this year 6–3.

    At the No. 1 position, No. 3 Greer will face Harvard’s Laura Gemmell, the top player in the country. Gemmell defeated Trinity’s Catalina Pelaez, who defeated Greer last month.

    “Our team needs to play with determination; that is, we need to refuse to lose,” Greer said. “By competing hard, by wearing Harvard down physically and mentally, we will be successful.”

    In their contest against Trinity, Harvard lost their match at the No. 3 position. Millie Tomlinson ’14, the No. 10 player in the country, will play at that spot on Saturday and is undefeated this season.

    “We have been building up to this match all season,” Sarah Toomey ’11 said. “Winning would mean an undefeated regular season and Ivy title.”

    The match begins at 1 p.m. for the women and 4 p.m. for the men.