No. 6 Stanford squash (6-5) returns to New Haven on Friday to begin its postseason campaign with a rematch against No. 3 Yale (12-3).
Seeded sixth in the Howe Cup, the National Championship division for the league’s top eight teams, Stanford will compete for a national title against a loaded field of rivals that also includes No. 1 Harvard (14-0), No. 2 Princeton (12-1) and No. 4 Trinity (14-3). Last year, the Cardinal achieved a program-best No. 3 final ranking by upsetting Princeton in the third-place playoff match after beating Yale in the opening round and losing to top-seed Harvard in the semifinals.
If Stanford is to repeat its postseason heroics this year, the Cardinal will need to defeat an improved Yale squad that bested them 6-3 in January in a tightly contested affair. Stanford’s regular-season loss to the Bulldogs included two brutal deciding-game losses for senior captains Casey Wong and Chloe Chemtob at the No. 2 and No. 5 positions — flipping those matchups will be crucial for Stanford to secure the upset. Yale, hosting the National Championships this year in New Haven, will once again retain home-court advantage against the traveling Cardinal.
“I think it’s a 5-4 match either way, win or lose,” said head coach Mark Talbott. “It’s going to be close.”
Stanford could also have its depth tested this weekend with freshman Haley Aube questionable with an ankle injury. Senior captain Julia Gillette is expected to move up to Aube’s position at No. 9 if she is unavailable to play.
“I’m disappointed for her,” Talbott said. “I’m still not completely ruling [Aube] out if she heals enough — it’d be great if she could participate and maybe at least play one match [over the weekend], but it’s going to be a game-time decision.”
With ambitions from last year’s historic finish on the line, the Cardinal will have much to play for on Friday. The winner between Stanford and Yale will progress to the semifinals to play the winner between Princeton and No. 7 Drexel (11-6) on Saturday, while a loss would send the Cardinal to the consolation bracket and confirm an end-of-season ranking of five or lower.
At the end of a season defined by close matches and nail-biting finishes — Stanford’s results against the rest of the Howe Cup field have included three 5-4 and three 6-3 scorelines — Talbott was optimistic.
“They’re winnable matches,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting.”
The Cardinal begin their postseason campaign on Friday at 12 p.m. PT. The match will be livestreamed on the College Squash Association’s website.
Contact Daniel Wu at dwu21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.