March 5, 2005
Junior Michelle Quibell advanced to the finals of the 2005 College Squash Association Individual championships by defeating teammate Catherine McCleod in the first semifinal on Saturday night at Hanover.
Quibell, who has won all 12 games in her four matches, jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first game. McCleod, who had never faced her school's top player in the nationals, took the next seven points and looked like she might grab the opener before Quibell answered with the next four to win 9-7.
Quibell, the defending champion, broke open a 2-2 tie with seven straight in the second game to win 9-2. McCleod fought back in the third game to take leads of 5-2 and 7-5 before ended up on the short side of the 9-7 decision.
"It's never easy playing a teammate. I was lucky because I had a fast match this morning and she [McCleod] had a long and emotional one," said Quibell, whose parents made the trip up from Atlanta to watch the tournament. "Things are coming together for me now, and I know that Catherine did not play her best."
The Yale women were not happy about the draw because they figured that it would likely take an All-America selection away from the two-time defending national champions, and the Elis were correct.
While Quibell, the top player in the country, was easily (3-0) winning her quarterfinal match over Audrey Duboc of Harvard, a Bulldog battle was taking place across the way on court 10 of the Dartmouth Squash Complex in the Berry Center during the morning session.
Yale teammates Amy Gross and McCleod were fighting to make the semifinals. Gross, the junior who plays No. 2 for Yale and was seeded fourth in the CSA, was trying to avenge a quarterfinal loss to McCleod in the same tournament last year at Canton, N.Y. McCleod, an Eli sophomore who plays No. 3 for Yale and was seeded fifth by the CSA Committee dropped the first game 9-4 before winning the next three 9-4, 9-2 and 9-4. McCleod, who wore her teammate down with well-placed shots, kept Gross at the back wall and prevented her from playing her strength up front.
"This [Gross vs. McLeod] is kind of a grudge match... No. 2 and 3 playing each other and they were both undefeated this year," said Julian Illingworth, the Yale men's top player who was enjoying the match before his quarterfinal.
Neither player wore Yale gear, but most people knew it was a fascinating matchup. Most of the fans gathered around court 10 should have taken them for bitter rivals.
"We know each other's game and we are such good mates off the court," said McCleod, the New Zealand native. "When we get on the court we just want to win. What ever happens on the court stays on the court. We are huge rivals on the court because we are both fighters."
"The three of us [Gross, McCleod] sat down at breakfast and I asked them if they wanted to go for it," said head coach Dave Talbott, referring to the slight in the draw and a premature matchup of teammates. "They both said they wanted to battle and that's why they are national champions."
For all the scores from the 2005 CSA Individual Champions, go to www.squashtalk.com.
Report filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director