Bulldogs Aim For Ivy, National Titles
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Three years ago, Yale women's squash defeated Harvard to clinch a national championship and an undefeated season with the help of then-freshmen Lilly Fast, Kim Hay and Millie Tomlinson. Now this trio, along with fellow seniors Gwen Tilghman and Coco Siebert, hope to end their college career in similar fashion.
Coach Dave Talbott believes the team is in good position to contend for the championship.
"The seniors, who went undefeated their freshmen year, are hungry to bookend their Yale careers with another title. Given the injuries and challenges of the last two seasons, we are all excited to have another opportunity to compete for a title this season," said Talbott.
Yale has an experienced squad this year, with five seniors and four juniors on the roster. Last season, Yale finished fourth in the Ivy League and fifth in the country; with many players returning, the Bulldogs believe they can improve on that result. Team captain Fast emphasized the great effort the team has put forth in the offseason to make the next step and bring home a title.
"I feel really positive about this season. Each team member has been committed to working hard this fall and I'm hoping that will show," said Fast. "We have focused on our fitness and strength and I think that will undoubtedly be one of our strongest assets throughout the season."
Yale will face stiff competition from Harvard, Trinity, Penn and Princeton. While all of these teams finished just ahead of Yale in last season's final standings, the Bulldogs competed closely with all of them and look to do so again this year. Yale's offseason improvement and strong result at the Ivy Scrimmages — losing in a tight match with Harvard before beating higher-ranked Penn to finish above its seeding — bodes well for the championship campaign ahead.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs will be Tomlinson, the No. 3 player in the nation. A three-time first team All-American, Tomlinson won the 2011 Ramsay Cup, becoming the first Yale freshman to win the women's individual title. Despite facing tough opposition in the top slot, Tomlinson finished last season with a 14-3 record.
Hay, also one of the top players in the Ivy League, returns to Yale's second spot after missing most of last season with a torn Achilles tendon. Despite this setback, she went undefeated during the Ivy Scrimmages in her first league competition since the injury. A first team All-American her sophomore year, Hay will be a key contributor to the team, and her return from injury greatly strengthens Yale's lineup.
Playing at No. 3, junior Shihui Mao looks to build on her success from last year, in which she went 9-3 on her way to the No. 16 ranking. These efforts earned her Yale's Hunt Welch Most Improved Player Award at the team's end-of-year banquet. Fellow junior Issey Norman-Ross posted a 14-4 record last season, ending the year at No. 43 overall. Like Hay, Norman-Ross won all of her matches in this year's Ivy Scrimmages.
Fast, Yale's captain and No. 6 player, has played a big role for the Bulldogs throughout her Yale career. She went 11-0 during Yale's undefeated 2011 season, winning her No. 9 match in the 5-4 championship victory against Harvard. Fast came through for Yale again her sophomore year, winning both her semifinal and final Howe Cup matches (although Yale would eventually fall to Harvard).
Rounding out the senior class are Tilghman and Siebert. Tilghman, who will play in the No. 7 position, finished last season with an 11-6 record, going 5-2 in Ivy League play. Siebert won all seven matches she played. Also returning are juniors Anna Harrison and Nina Kempner. Harrison, who went 13-3 last year, will fill the No. 9 spot. Kempner won both of her matches.
Sophomores Annie Ballaine, Georgia Blatchford and Amanda Roberts will look to further develop their skills after freshman seasons in which they all posted winning records. Yale has also added four freshmen: Jessica Lee, Shiyuan Mao, Jenny Scherl and Madeline Tomlinson. Scherl saw her first collegiate action in the No. 5 position during the Ivy Scrimmages. Both Mao and Tomlinson have older siblings on the team. All are strong players who will provide Yale with quality depth this year and gain experience at the college level.
According to Fast, Yale's players have set their sights high for the upcoming season, but will remain focused on the task at hand.
"While our end goal is a national championship, we want to focus on building our game and approach the season match by match," said Fast.
Yale begins the season Friday, December 6 with matches against Amherst and Williams. The Bulldogs open Ivy League play against Columbia on Saturday, January 11 at the Brady Squash Center.
Report by Evan Brown '16, Yale Sports Publicity