November 10, 2006

W. Squash Heads to Ivy Scrimmages

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What would it be like if seven out of the top-10 teams in NCAA football came from the same conference? It seems ludicrous, but in the collegiate world of women’s squash the Ivy League has dominated the national rankings for decades. An elite field of teams, including a squad of 10 players from Cornell, will converge on New Haven, Conn., this weekend for the Ivy Scrimmages.

The Red is coming off a mediocre 2005-06 campaign, in which the team finished at 4-6 during the regular season. To start off the new season strong, Cornell hopes to bolster the confidence of its younger players this weekend. The team will rely on the experience of its co-captains, junior Mairin Barnes and senior Jamie Singer, who have both been dependable starters throughout their careers with the Red.

In the first round of the scrimmages, the Red expects to face a renowned Harvard team. The Crimson’s impressive roster features All-Americans Kyla Grigg and Jennifer Blumberg.

“I expect us to have good rallies and win a few points, but taking games against Harvard is not easily done,” said women’s head coach Julee Devoy. “We will be competitive in every match.”

The Red will then be pitted against its closest rival, Brown, in the second round of the scrimmages. Senior Natalie Pierpont captains a Brown squad that beat the Red, 8-1, last January. However, Devoy believes the outcome will be quite different at this weekend’s tournament.

“The match against Brown could go either way on paper, and I think we can pull off the win but I expect it to be close.” Devoy said. “We’ll have to depend on the strength of our recruiting class.”

The newcomers to Cornell’s squad include freshmen Jen Chu, Annie Ritter, Liza Stokes and Rachel Wagner. As a senior in high school, Liza Stokes was ranked in the top-20 nationally, and Rachael Wagner claimed the No. 18 rank in the under-17 division.

“We are very competitive on the court, and we have great relationships off the court as well,” Wagner said.

Sophomores Alix Watson, Maxi Prinsen, and Lauren Clarke will make up the rest of Cornell’s roster for this weekend’s competition. Sophomore Neda Jefar and senior Margot Dickson are members of the team but will not travel on Saturday.

Princeton and Yale, the nation’s two top programs respectively, round out the field of competition. The Bulldogs are the defending Howe Cup champions — which is the squash equivalent of a national title — and are led by senior standout Kate Rapisarda. However, the preseason No. 1 Princeton might prove to be Cornell’s toughest test with 12 returning players. Claire Rein-Weston, a three-time All-American, captains the Tiger’s imposing roster.

Devoy, in her third season at the helm for the Red, brings a sense of leadership to the extraordinarily young Cornell team.
“Julee not only cares about our squash game, but also our academic responsibilities,” Wagner said. “She’s like a second mother to us.