Sporting Life

Yale’s newest national champion

The third Eli woman to win a national singles title in squash.

Albert Chen ’00 is a staff writer at Sports Illustrated.

Debra Tessier

Debra Tessier

Yale's Miranda Ranieri ’08 (right) enroute to capturing the national title against Penn's Kristen Lange. View full image

When Miranda Ranieri ’08 found herself down 5–0 in the fourth game of the College Squash Association (CSA) national individual championship, she could feel her dream slipping away. So the Yale squash captain took a deep breath and told herself, "This is my last chance to win this. It’s time to step up. It’s time to attack." Ranieri, the nation’s top-ranked college player, went on to win nine of the next ten points to take the game and the national individual title. "I was so nervous, because I didn’t want to let anyone down—not my family, not my coaches, not Yale,” says Ranieri, who defeated Kristen Lange of Penn, 3–1 (10–8, 9–5, 5–9, 9–6), in the final. "But once I calmed down and went on the offensive, everything was okay.”

A four-time All-American at Yale, Ranieri became only the third Eli woman to win a national singles title in squash. Over the last three years she has been one of the nation’s top players, but her pursuit of an individual national title had always been derailed by injuries. She got a scare at last month’s CSAs when she rolled over her ankle during warm-ups, only ten minutes before a quarterfinal match against the nation’s third-ranked player, Princeton’s Neha Kumar. "I panicked at first," says Ranieri. She had her ankle taped, and then stepped onto the court and trounced Kumar 3–0. "Once the match started, my adrenaline took over. I was more focused and motivated than ever this year, and at that point, I was going to go out there even if my ankle was severely injured. I was ready to play through anything.”

Ranieri’s success is due to her work ethic (in addition to her daily team practices during the season, she trained three or four times a week with coaches David Talbott and Gareth Webber) and her quickness, which allows her to retrieve balls that most players don’t. Ranieri is a natural athlete; growing up in Toronto, she also played basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Squash, though, was her first love. Her father introduced her to the sport when she was seven, and by the age of ten, she was a junior champion in Canada. She made her first visit to Yale to compete in a tournament her junior year of high school. "I met the coaches and the players, and I just fell in love with the place,” she says.

In her final season Ranieri led the Elis to a 13-3 record and a third-place finish at the Howe Cup. Days before winning her individual national title, Ranieri was awarded the 2008 Betty Richey Award by the CSA for being the country’s best all-around player. "The award was for fair play and sportsmanship,” says Ranieri, the fourth Eli in a row to win the award. "It just shows how much great coaching and support from teammates I’ve had over the years.”

This summer in Ecuador, Ranieri will compete as a member of the Canadian National Team at the Pan Am Games. Afterwards she plans to play professionally for the next few years. "Winning [nationals] was a nice way to end my Yale career,” she says. "But I'm not ready to quit playing quite yet.”



Sports Shorts

The Yale women’s tennis team has won its first outright Ivy League title since 1981. Going into the April 20 match at Dartmouth, the Bulldogs had been undefeated against Ivy competition. With the match tied 3–3, Lindsay Clark '11 beat her Dartmouth opponent to preserve Yale’s unblemished League record; the team finished at 7–0. Next stop: a first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway '09 continues rewriting the Yale baseball record book and attracting the attention of pro scouts. Lavarnway, an All-American last season who won the NCAA Division I batting crown, hit his 27th career home run on March 20 to break the Eli record.

In his first individual victory as a Yalie, golfer Colby Moore '09 took top honors at the New England Division 1 Championship in Providence on April 13. Moore’s performance—a two-round, four-under-par score of 140—bested his teammate, second-place finisher Ben Wescoe '10, by three strokes. The one-two finish helped the men’s team capture its first tournament victory in almost five years.

Jeffrey H. Orleans '67, '71JD, the first (and, so far, only) executive director of Ivy League athletics, has announced that he will retire next year. In his quarter century at the league, he has worked to implement Title IX and to promote both athletic competitiveness and strong academic standards in the league. Orleans, who had been a civil rights attorney and university administrator before he took the Ivy post in 1984, will retire effective June 30, 2009.


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