Since students left for winter break, the men’s and women’s squash teams have played five matches, including three against Ivy League opponents. The men’s team went 1-4 over the break, winning against Brown and taking losses from Yale, Trinity, Columbia and St. Lawrence. Though the losses to Ivy League opponents were tough, the match against Trinity was the real test of the break. Trinity is currently ranked No. 1, while Cornell currently sits at No. 12. Yale, St. Lawrence and Columbia are ranked sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.
Cornell’s margin of loss was five or more in each of these matches, losing by scores of 1-8, 1-8, 2-7 and 1-8 over the course of the break. Cornell did however find success in the lower ranked spots, with freshman Ben Francis notching the only win for the team against Yale and Trinity.
“You usually give freshmen some time to mature into the college game, but Ben Francis hasn’t missed a beat,” said senior Graham Dietz. “He is leading the team with wins, which is great to see, and hopefully he can keep improving. He’s got a bright future.”
Against Columbia, Francis and fellow freshman Alex Jung were the only Cornell players to beat their opponents. Against St. Lawrence, Jung once again proved himself as a rookie to watch, beating the Saints’ number eight spot in a close match. The victory would prove to be the Red’s only point all day.
“We’ve had a solid start to the season and have only lost to teams ranked above us,” said senior captain Kevin Flannery. “St. Lawrence was a tough match but was a good opportunity to give some of our younger players a chance to get real match experience.”
Though the team’s winter break record might not seem promising, the men’s squash team has reason to be confident going forward, according to Dietz.
“The last few years St. Lawrence has been one of the top teams in the nation,” Dietz said. “It was going to be a very difficult challenge to beat them, but I think we surprised a lot of people by how close our match was with them. Even though we couldn’t pull out a win, we proved to ourselves that we can compete with the best teams in the country.”
Looking forward, the men have a few key matches which could help define the team’s season.
“We have a couple of must-win matches coming up against GW and Drexel, and then two huge opportunities to jump up in the rankings against Dartmouth and Harvard (both home matches),” Flannery said.
Dietz also said that improving in the national standings is a key emphasis for the team.
“Since our very disappointing ending to last season, we set a goal of getting back into the Top-8 in the country,” Dietz said. “Last year we dropped out of the Top-8 for the first time since our coach first got here, something like 11 years. So obviously we were very frustrated. We’ve used it as motivation to work really hard this year. We’ve got a couple of really big matches to end the year before nationals that can get us back into the Top-8.”
On the women’s side, the team is currently ranked eighth in the country. Consistency has been an issue for the team, however; they lost to Yale, 0-9, beat Brown, 7-2, lost to Trinity, 1-8, lost a heartbreaker to Columbia, 4-5, and crushed St. Lawrence, 9-0.
“Because it’s such an individual sport, it’s really hard to keep your cool, so deciding factors have been showing up to play, getting in the zone and staying focused,” said junior Sydney Francis. “We need to work on getting pumped up before matches but remaining dialed in.”
A strength of the women’s team has been its depth, according to Francis.
“Because our team has a lot of depth, which means we’re strong at the five spot and down, a lot of us are interchangeable,” Francis said. “So we have to utilize the depth to our advantage.”
That depth is led by sophomore Emma Uible, who has been a standout on a team that is consistently playing the best in the country.
“Emma Uible has been doing an outstanding job at number five,” Francis said. “She’s been really consistent, works really hard during practice and the results show on the court. Because it’s an individual sport it’s really easy to have a bad match but she’s been focused and dedicated.”