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No. 2 Yale Readies to Defend National Championship at the Howe Cup

Lillian Fast. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Lillian Fast. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – This weekend, the Yale women's squash team will head to Harvard for the Howe Cup to compete for a repeat national championship. 

The Bulldogs will play in the A Division of the Howe Cup, which features the eight highest ranked teams in the country.  Those eight teams are No. 1 Harvard, the Bulldogs at No. 2, No. 3 Princeton, No. 4 Penn, Trinity at No. 5, Stanford in the No. 6 spot, Cornell at No. 7 and Dartmouth at No. 8.

Yale has already defeated every opponent in the division except for Harvard, against whom the Bulldogs sustained a 5-4 loss in which Harvard came back from a 4-2 deficit in the season finale two weeks ago. 

Over the course of the season, Harvard (14-0, 7-0 Ivy) and Yale (15-1, 6-1 Ivy) have established themselves as members of an upper echelon firmly above the rest of the country, as no other team has fewer than three losses.  Yale's closest non-Harvard match came against Penn.  The Quakers pushed the Bulldogs to a 4-4 tie, but Yale closed out the match easily with a 3-0 victory from sophomore Millie Tomlinson in the No. 1 spot.  Harvard also had a 5-4 match, against Princeton, but finished the regular season undefeated.  Meanwhile, Princeton lost an early-season match 6-3 to Penn, Penn lost a 5-4 match to Trinity, and Trinity was trounced 8-1 by Princeton. 

Yale's first opponent will be No. 7 Cornell.  The Big Red finished the season with an 11-6 record and a 3-4 mark in the Ivy League.  Cornell's top ranked player is No. 16 Jaime Laird, followed by No. 27 Jesse Pacheco, Lauren Sachvie at No. 69, Alexandra Glassman at No. 76, No. 80 Maggie Remsen and No. 99 Laura Caty.  Cornell plays freshman Danielle Letourneau (10-5) at No. 1.  The Bulldogs have already faced Cornell this season, wining a January 15 matchup 9-0.  Despite the dominant score, the match could in reality have been much closer.  Two matches went to five games and another three went to four, indicating that Cornell has a shot at making this match a close one.

Yale's squad is headlined by Tomlinson, the No. 1 ranked player from last season.  Next up for the Bulldogs is sophomore Kim Hay, who is ranked No. 15 but is coming off a huge upset victory over No. 2 Laura Gemmell of Harvard.  Yale's captain is senior Rhetta Nadas, ranked No. 33 nationally.  The Bulldogs have been playing No. 56 ranked senior Alexandra van Arkel in the fourth spot, with No. 47 Katie Ballaine, a junior, at No. 5 and sophomore Gwen Tilghman and her No. 46 ranking at No. 6.  The last three for Yale consists of sophomore Lilly Fast, ranked No. 68, and freshmen Shihui Mao and Issey Norman-Ross

Should Yale advance past Cornell, it would face either No. 3 Princeton or No. 6 Stanford in the semifinal on Friday. 

Earlier this season, Yale defeated Stanford 9-0 in a convincing victory.  Since then, Stanford is a pedestrian 4-3, with convincing losses against Trinity, Princeton and Penn. 

The Tigers, though, are a bit more worrisome.  In a match on February 4, Yale pulled out a 7-2 victory.  However, the win was not at all dominant, with three of Yale's victories coming down to a fifth game and three others going to a fourth.  The two matches Princeton won, meanwhile, were 3-0 sweeps.  The Tigers also seem to be playing their best squash at just the right time, as they have won four straight matches since the Yale loss, including a convincing 8-1 win over No. 5 Trinity.

Should Yale make it through to the finals, it is almost certain that No. 1 Harvard will be waiting.  If that comes to pass, it would be a rematch of last year's Howe Cup championship, in which Yale won 5-4 to claim the national title on the strength of a four-set victory from Hay with the score knotted at 4-4.

Fans can find brackets and follow along with tournament results here.


Report by Calvin Bohn '14, Yale Sports Publicity