February 15, 2013

Bulldogs Prep for National Championships

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Starting Friday, the Brady Squash Center will play host to the National Team Championships, with No. 5 Yale beginning with a match against No. 4 Trinity at 1:30 p.m.

The winner of the match between Yale and Trinity will likely have to face No. 1 Princeton in the semifinals, provided that the Tigers can replicate their regular season sweep against No. 8 Brown in the first round.  Princeton had a dominant season, going 11-0 and 7-0 in the Ivy League.  With that said, the Tigers did have close matches against both the Bulldogs and No. 2 Harvard, with both showdowns finishing at 5-4 in favor of Princeton.

To even get to a match against Princeton, though, the Bulldogs will have to play better than they did in their regular season match against Trinity, which ended in a 5-4 loss and put Trinity above Yale in the standings.  In that match, Trinity took wins at Nos. 1-4 and at No. 6.  One thing that bodes ill for the Bulldogs is that those top four matches could turn into the top five this time around, as the Bulldogs will be without junior Kim Hay, the nation's No. 6 player and a stalwart at No. 2 for the Bulldogs all year.  With Hay out of the picture, it will be incumbent on the rest of the team to step up, as Trinity, at least according to their submitted line-up, will be putting the exact same team on the court as it did in the regular season. 

That squad includes several impressively ranked players, starting with No. 5 Catalina Pelaez and continuing with No. 25 Ashley Tidman, No. 31 Jennifer Pelletier, No. 33 Natalie Babjukova, No. 39 Robyn Hodgson and No. 59 Chanel Erasmus.  However, the most important part of that team and the biggest difference between the Trinity of years past and the current edition is freshman Kanzy El Defrawy.  El Defrawy is ranked No. 57 in the world, and only dropped one match all season.  That loss was to Harvard's Amanda Sobhy, the defending national individual champion and a four-time victor over Yale's own former champion, junior Millie Tomlinson.  When the Bulldogs travelled to Hartford earlier this season, El Defrawy was able to pull out a five-game thriller over Tomlinson, eventually winning 11-9, 8-11, 11-13, 11-3, 11-9. 

The Bulldogs could use a win from Tomlinson this time around, but regardless of who does the winning, the Bulldogs will need five victories to advance to the semifinals.  Tomlinson will play at No. 1, senior captain Katie Ballaine will play at No. 2 and sophomore Shihui Mao will be in the third spot.  Juniors Gwen Tilghman and Lilly Fast will be in the fourth and fifth spots, and sophomore Issey Norman-Ross is at No. 6.  Freshmen Anna Harrison and Annie Ballaine are in the Nos. 7 and 8 slots, while senior Katie Harrison is No. 9.  Should any of those nine be unable to play, freshman Georgia Blatchford and senior Carolyn Brown will be the first reinforcements. 

Fans are encouraged to come watch, but for those not in the New Haven area, updates will be posted right here on the Yale Athletics site as well as at the College Squash Association's website.

 

Report by Calvin Bohn '14, Yale Sports Publicity