February 20, 2004

Women's Squash Takes to Nationals

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The women’s squash team will look for post-season victory this weekend as it visits New Haven, Conn. to compete in the annual National Women’s Championships. The squashers begin play this afternoon against St. Lawrence in what coach Scott Stoneburgh said “should be a very close match.”

“As an Ivy League team, everyone’s going to be coming after us,” Stoneburgh added.

The Ancient Eight have traditionally dominated the Nationals, with an Ivy winning every tournament from 1973 to 2001.

Cornell, the 10th overall seed, is set to compete in the tourney’s “B-level” division composed of teams ranked nine through 16. If Cornell can win three consecutive matches, it’ll come home with the prestigious Kurtz Cup.

Although the Red will not have the chance to go for the “A-level” Howe Cup, Stoneburgh believes “a win here would be a good stepping stone for the program.”

Stoneburgh said he has seen great athletic and mental development from his players this year.

“For a coach, watching the progression is pretty fantastic,” he said. “Squash is like a game of chess. The team is getting better with its strategy.”

Cornell started the season with losses against national powerhouses Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. The Red also suffered two close defeats against Toronto and Bates College. But in their last four matches, the squashers have gone 2-2, including a hard-fought win against Amherst.

The team is now “more confident,” Stoneburgh said, especially after Sunday’s 9-0 rout of William Smith. The squashers dominated the meet, winning every match three games to zero. Freshman Caitlin Russell, playing at the top of the line-up, permitted her opponent only two points the entire match. Sophomore Stephanie Tsay gave up just a single point, while Junior Brooke Stetson completely shut out her opponent for two of her three games.

But Cornell will have to face stronger opposition this weekend. The tourney’s “B Division” includes not only last year’s Kurtz Cup winner, Bowdoin College, but also Amherst, and ninth-ranked Bates. Bates is coming off an 11-3 season, which includes that close win over Cornell in January.

“All the teams in this division are pretty closely matched,” Stoneburgh noted.

Cornell entered last year’s Nationals ranked 13th, and lost in a close 5-4 opening round meet. The team went on to win both its consolation games, including one against this year’s first-round opponent, St. Lawrence. The Red is hungry for better results this time around.

“They’re definitely making some big leaps,” Stoneburgh said. “I’m really positive about this weekend.”

Archived article by Ted Nyman