November 16, 2001

A Gift From Spain

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Senior squasher Olga Puigdemont-Sola is not one for excess emotions. After earning her third All-American honor in as many years last season, she reacted graciously but largely stoically.

But it would be hard to find anyone beside Puigdemont-Sola who would react with such restraint to a resume punctuated by accolades and international acclaim.

“She’s a huge asset. We are lucky to have her,” junior teammate Andrea McNeely praised.

A native of Blanes Giorna, Spain, Puigdemont-Sola made her impact felt on East Hill almost immediately upon her arrival. Since donning the carnellian and white for the first time, she has posted an eyebrow-raising 49-14 mark.

The senior will be absent from Ithaca for the remainder of the fall semester as she participates in the Urban Semester program in New York City. Though Cornell may not have her, the squash team does — she will compete in all the Red’s matches..

As a junior she compiled a 14-5 mark, claiming a spot on the Women’s Intercollegiate Squash Association All-Tournament team. She finished the year ranked No. 5 in the country.

Her intangibles are equally valuable to the squad. Puigdemont-Sola’s work ethic is touted by her teammates.

“She’s an extremely hard worker,” affirmed McNeely.

The Spaniard has clearly impacted Cornell’s program. On her strength last year, the Red enjoyed its finest finish, capturing fifth place during both the regular campaign and at the Howe Cup — the season ending tournament. En route, Cornell garnered its first victory over an Ivy League opponent as well.

“It certainly was a huge improvement. [Last season] wasn’t just a flash in the pan,” head coach Beverly Tunnicliffe said.

Puigdemont-Sola is likewise a role model for a team dominated by underclassmen.

“She’s someone to look up to,” McNeely said.

Tunnicliffe seconded the sentiment.

“Most of her teammates look up to her as a truly elite player and I think that they watch and learn from her,” the coach added.

If there is one word that defines Puigdemont-Sola’s play it is clutch. Last season she began by knocking off then No. 1 player in the nation Louisa Hall. She followed that performance by dispatching former NCAA champion Julia Beaver of Princeton. The win avenged her loss to Beaver during her freshman campaign. In a heated match Puigdemont-Sola won the first game — it was the first time that Beaver had lost a collegiate game. However, she battled back to defeat Puigdemont-Sola. The win over Beaver last season was the culmination of a rivalry that began with a Puigdemont-Sola victory in the Under-19 U.S. Championships in 1995.

The team is able to feed of such success.

“It was a huge start to the season, and we just continued to play strong,” Tunnicliffe said.

In addition to her play at Cornell, Puigdemont-Sola is also a regular member of the Spanish national team. Now a senior, her freshman year began at the age of 20.

Puigdemont-Sola’s development can largely be attributed to the capable tutelage of Tunnicliffe.

Tunnicliffe brings over 20 years of experience in the squash field spread across a variety of positions.

She was most recently the executive director of Sasketchewan Squash, Inc. where she served as the tournament chairperson for Women’s International Squash Players Association’s

Challenge Championship. Puigdemont-Sola has made the recent multi-million dollar renovation of the Belkin courts seem prudent.

“With the brand new squash facility, we were looking to prove something,” Tunnicliffe professed.

And the rewards should be reaped for years to come.

“[Our] results will ultimately help the recruiting process to a certain degree,” she said.

Archived article by Gary Schueller