By Andrew Tan
No. 4 Stanford women’s squash (6-4) travels to Hartford, CT, today to face off against No. 5 Yale (10-4) in their first match of the College Squash Association (CSA) National Championships.
Stanford bested the Bulldogs 7-2 in their previous matchup in California, showcasing superior depth by winning all six of their bottom-seeded matches. This victory was critical for tournament seeding and puts the Cardinal in solid position heading into the three-day tournament.
Although Stanford tamed the Bulldogs last time around, the match was much closer than the final score indicated, as six of nine contests required five sets for a decision. A rivalry between Stanford and Yale continues to emerge before our eyes as the teams, like elementary school children trying to assert dominance by fighting to place their limbs on top of a pile of other kids’ limbs, fight for the upper hand. The Cardinal have won three of the previous four meetings, breaking up a dominant stretch by Yale in which the Bulldogs took 10 of 13.
Besides the competitive nature of the teams’ previous bouts, another compelling storyline in this first-round tie is the showdown between Stanford head coach Mark Talbott and his older brother Dave Talbott, Yale head coach. Will Mark play the role of Michael Corleone and supplant his brother to become the pride of the family? This remains to be seen, but last time around in the 2018 CSA National Championships, Fredo got the best of Michael as Stanford dropped its opening match to Yale in a 5-4 decision.
The CSA tournament is divided into tiers based on national rankings, of which the top tier is the Howe Cup for the top eight teams. This is both good and bad news for the Cardinal, as they have a chance to win the highest award in collegiate squash, but they have not, however, fared well against top competition.
All of Stanford’s losses this season have come against top three opponents — No. 1 Harvard, No. 2 Princeton and No. 3 Trinity — with the exception of a loss to No. 6 University of Pennsylvania, also in the Howe Cup. These programs have combined for 48-7 record this season.
Still, Stanford need not worry about these teams until it takes care of business against Yale. A couple of freshman standouts figure to play a large role in defining Stanford’s run in the tournament. Elena Wagenmans has occupied the top spot in the lineup for the entire season and tallied a 5-3 record, while Amita Gondi has shored up the lower part of the lineup, leading the team with six wins.
If Stanford was to defeat Yale, it would face Harvard in the semifinals. Matches against the Bulldogs start at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.
Contact Andrew Tan at tandrew ‘at’ stanford.edu.