This past weekend, the women’s squash team traveled to Dartmouth for what might sound like some friendly intra-league competition. Not quite. The preseason Ivy scrimmages confronted the young Red squad with six of the top eight teams in the nation. Though the results on paper indicate losses of 9-0, 9-0 and 8-1 for Cornell, head coach Scott Stoneburgh and his players observed individual determination and team-wide positive energy that made the weekend a step up from last year’s Scrimmages.
“Though we lost, the scores don’t necessarily reflect how well we did,” commented junior co-captain Brooke Stetson. “We were again the underdogs this year, but we made these teams earn every point they won across the entire ladder.”
The first two matches pitted the Red against No .5 Penn, followed by third-ranked Yale, called by Stoneburgh “the anticipated new dominant force in women’s squash.” After these contests proved fruitless, the Red took on number-eight ranked Brown. In this match, freshman Margot Dickson, fifth on the Red ladder, defeated a veteran Bear to put Cornell on the board and give Stoneburgh his first Ivy match victory since taking over the women’s team last season. Stetson’s excitement over Dickson’s triumph was readily apparent.
“Margot is such a strong player,” Stetson bubbled. “She will keep working her way through opponents and up the ladder.”
“Although her opponent was much more experienced, Margot stuck to her game plan and prevailed in a very close match,” commented Stoneburgh.
Dickson praised her teammates for their support during her hard-fought win, saying, “The cheering and coaching I received from my team during my first collegiate match lessened my nervousness but also heightened my intensity.”
Dickson’s success is viewed as a taste of things to come for a green team that graduated only two last spring and will not lose a current player to graduation until 2005. Freshmen Caitlin Russell, Anna Beavis and Jamie Singer join Dickson at the one, six and nine spots, respectively.
On having a freshman in his top spot, Stoneburgh observed, “Caitlin’s always been nationally ranked, but at number one now, she’s playing against girls who have been top two or three in the country. She’s got her hands full, but her strengths have raised everyone else on the team up a level.”
Stoneburgh sees his team currently a stride back from the rest of the Ivy pack, a gap that he ascribes to the elitist underpinnings of the sport and the ability of the Harvard-Yale-Princeton network to recruit from prep schools and overseas. While he can’t do anything about the “phenomenal facilities” and international superstars that top squash programs enjoy, Stoneburgh knows how to push his players to reach their own potential.
“Since squash is a game of attrition, we’ll be working on keeping in top physical condition and on individual skills,” he noted. “The amount of improvement possible between now and Nationals in February is substantial. To crack the top 10, we have to keep reaching for the next level.”
Archived article by Dan Schiff