November 17, 2000

Women Turning the Corner

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Want to learn a little about squash? Talk to new women’s squash head coach Bev Tunnicliffe, if you’ve got a minute.

Or 30.

Tunnicliffe brings with her to the East Hill a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of squash and a love for the game that is evident in conversation. The 30-year veteran of squash — as a player, coach, official and administrator — speaks with an excitement that should breathe much-needed life into a program that went 4-10 (1-5 Ivy) last year.

Tunnicliffe joined the Red in early October from Saskatchewan Squash Inc., where she was the tournament chairperson for the Women’s International Squash Players Association Challenge Championship. She was also professional coach for the Regina (Saskatchewan) Court & Fitness Club.

Tunnicliffe is not the only new thing in Cornell women’s squash. The introduction of the Belkin International Squash Courts has given the group an advantage it has never had before, the ability to practice on the same type of court that it competes on.

“Being able to compete on the same courts [the players] practice on day after day makes a huge difference,” Tunnicliffe said.

That advantage should reflect in the overall women’s squash standings.

“The girls are incredibly motivated to make huge strides this year,” Tunnicliffe said. “We’re hoping within the Ivies to be fourth.”

Those standards might seem low, but they would mean huge gains for the women’s team. The ability to compete with Ivy top guns Harvard, Penn and Princeton is still a few years off. That trio of schools are a significant step above the relatively inexperienced program here at Cornell, but that does not discourage Tunnicliffe.

Leading the women this year will once again be international junior phenom Olga Puidgemont-Sola. She will be competing internationally during some of the Red’s matches this year, but will once again be easily one of the best squash players in the country. She can compete with anyone.

From there, things are a little more up in the air. “We haven’t done a lot of match play stuff, so the girls have only played each other a couple of times,” Tunnicliffe said. “It’s very hard at this point [to determine where everyone is].”

The battle for the second spot should be between junior Andrea McNeely and senior Kellen Heckscher. Fourth right now is junior Melinda Lee, who is “coming on fast and furious,” according to Tunnicliffe.

Rounding out the team are seniors Kate Lytle, Megan Schwarz, Sandy Hah, sophomores Becca Brier-Rosenfield and Rachel Perschetz and freshman Lisa Marx.

Overall, the biggest benefit to the squash team may be that encyclopedic knowledge of Tunnicliffe. She is helping to build team confidence and should help the squad improve play this year. The team looked much improved at the Ivy Scrimmages just last week.

“In a short period of time, what we’ve been working on has shown results,” the coach said.

The team will simply have to prove that work ethic equates to results. But if you want to know how a new coach and new courts will help the team, just ask the girls. They are excited and would be happy to tell you what a difference it all makes.

If you’ve got a minute.

Archived article by Charles Persons