Toughness has been a trademark of the Princeton women's squash team this season, and toughness was there when it mattered most Saturday in New Haven. Princeton grabbed control of the Ivy League race with a 5-4 comeback win over the fifth-ranked and former Ivy-unbeaten Yale Bulldogs.
In its last three team matches, Princeton has defeated the second-, third- and fifth-ranked teams, all of whom were considered prime challengers for the Ivy League title. After winning the first two at home, Princeton took its show on the road and held off 2012 national team finalist Yale at the Brady Squash Center.
"We haven't been on the road that much, and these courts were different," said head coach Gail Ramsay. "It was quite a challenge, and it's tough to get comfortable. It was good to play yesterday, and we came out and played hard today. It was an exciting win."
Yale's only loss of the season had been at Trinity, so it had the opportunity to take control of the league race. The start was a positive one for the Bulldogs, who held a 2-1 lead after the opening shift. Princeton sophomore Hallie Dewey was the lone victor for the Tigers; her 3-0 win at the No. 9 spot kept her team in a reasonable position.
"I like going out there first," said Dewey, whose comeback from a 2-0 deficit was crucial in the 5-4 win over Harvard. "It's not all on your shoulders, you can just go out there and get your team a win.
"I think by winning these long, grinding, tough matches," Dewey added on this dramatic season, "those are the ones that are building our confidence. It feels different than it did before."
Despite trailing 2-1, Princeton was able to change momentum during the second shift. Sophomore Alex Lunt won three tough games at the No. 5 spot, but Yale regained the lead with a 3-1 victory at the No. 8 spot.
With 2011 national champion Millie Tomlinson waiting at the No. 1 spot for Yale, Princeton knew it had no margin for error. Junior Alex Sawin dropped only 14 points in her 3-0 win at the No. 7 spot, and freshman Rachel Leizman was terrific in her 3-0 victory at the No. 4 spot.
That left junior Libby Eyre to finish the job, and she knocked off Yale senior Katie Ballaine 11-5, 11-9, 11-9 to clinch that match. Tomlinson did earn a win at the No. 1 spot, though Princeton senior co-captain Julie Cerullo pushed her in three tough games before falling 11-9, 11-8, 11-7.
For Princeton, it was proof that it could win a tough match outside of Jadwin. And there is no better place for Princeton to show that this season, considering the Tigers will return to the Brady Squash Center in two weeks for the 2013 Howe Cup national team championships.
"It was nice for us to play Stanford on Friday," Dewey said of the 8-1 win over the seventh-ranked Cardinal. "We said that we just have to make these courts our home, since we'll be back here for Howe Cup. I can't wait to come back."
Princeton heads to Providence Sunday to take on Brown at noon.
#1 Princeton 5, #5 Yale 4
1) Millie Tomlinson (Y) d. Julie Cerullo 9,8,7
2) Libby Eyre (P) d. Katie Ballaine 5,9,9
3) Shihui Mao (Y) d. Nicole Bunyan (4),5,(7),7,10
4) Rachel Leizman (P) d. Lilly Fast 5,8,5
5) Alex Lunt (P) d. Gwen Tilghman 7,6,6
6) Issy Norman-Ross (Y) d. Lexi Saunders 1,5,(5),8
7) Alex Sawin (P) d. Anna Harrison 5,6,3
8) Annie Ballaine (Y) d. Tara Harrington 3,(9),7,9
9) Hallie Dewey (P) d. Georgia Blatchford 1,9,6