For the seniors on the women’s squash team, their four years at Cornell have been nothing less than a full-fledged makeover.
When they arrived on campus, the program was in its nascent stage, only able to compete against third-tier teams.
But with its fifth-place performance this weekend at the Howe Cup — the national championship — the club has now triumphantly carved out Cornell’s name onto to the collegiate squash map, putting the Red in the same breath as the Harvards, the Trinitys, and the Yales of the world.
“We couldn’t even compete with the Ivy League schools,” senior Megan Schwartz said about the state of the program during her freshman year. “Now we can play with all of them. The transformation that’s occurred at Cornell is wonderful.”
By dismissing Dartmouth, 5-4, Sunday in New Haven, Conn., Cornell not only fulfilled a season-long aspiration, but more importantly it also completed the establishment of a program that has been in the works since women’s squash was switched from a club sport to an intercollegiate sport.
“It’s tremendous,” said senior Kate Lytle, commenting on how far the Red has come. “It’s an entirely different world.”
The fifth-place finish represents a drastic improvement even from last year, when the Red took eighth at the Howe Cup.
Cornell began the tournament on Friday with a first-round loss to Princeton, 7-2.
“We had nothing to lose,” Schwartz said about the team’s attitude while playing the Tigers. “They have a well-established program. We were the underdogs completely.”
But coming back the next day, however, the Red dominated Brown, pulling out victories in all of the top six spots to win by a score of 6-3.
Then Sunday with fifth-place on the line against the Green, it came down to the very final match, pitting Lytle and Dartmouth’s Farrar Evans.
“I had the whole team watching me,” Lytle said.
She didn’t disappoint, ousting Evans in just three games.
Leading to the excitement surrounding Lytle’s match were victories by Olga Puigdemont-Sola, Andrea McNeely, Melinda Lee, and Schwartz. Lee’s contest may have been the catalyst for the victory; despite falling behind in the first two games, she climbed back in her match against Abigail Drachman-Jones, winning 9-6 in the fifth and final game.
“We feel so awesome,” Lytle exclaimed. “We deserved it.”
“For us to win is amazing. It was a huge milestone,” Schwartz described the magnitude of the victory. “It really establishes that [Cornell] is a strong program.”
The seniors will have one more opportunity to make their impression on the team when the Red heads to Harvard on March 2 for the individual national championships. But those results notwithstanding, they have already witnessed, if not been the force behind, the metamorphosis that has rapidly made Cornell a national power.
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj