January 18, 2007

Squash Teams Stay Busy Over Vacation

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The men’s and women’s squash teams had a busy winter recess, with each team playing six matches since the end of classes.

The women’s squad went 4-2 during that stretch, experiencing its highlight of the season thus far — a 5-4 nailbiter over Bates College.

Cornell came into the match confident, having knocked off a surging Stanford team that featured the nation’s No. 1 player, Lily Lorentzen, just before the break. But it was Bates whom the Red were particularly looking forward to, a team one spot ahead of Cornell in the national rankings at No. 9.

“We really focused on the Bates match,” said women’s head coach Julee Devoy. “They were close to us in the rankings and it was an opportunity [to show our talent]. … We were happy with our play leading up to the match also.”

The match came down to junior co-captain Mairin Barnes, who played at the No. 4 spot. Barnes had to display all of the leadership that makes her the elder statesman on a youthful Red team in winning a tense, five-set match. Her opponent, Bates junior Charlotte Gerrish, won the first set easily before Barnes stormed back for a 9-1 second set win. Gerrish then took the pivotal third set in extra points, 10-8, swinging the balance in Bates’ favor. Barnes, however, who emphasized fitness as the key to the Red’s success, rallied to win the fourth set, 9-5, and the match-deciding fifth, 9-7.

“It was the best match of our season,” Devoy said. “It was very exciting because it came down to the last match that finished, and we are very pleased with our performance.”

The Red asserted itself at the top of the lineup, getting wins from each of its top-3 players. Sophomore Maxi Prinsen, the Red’s No. 1 player since 2005, was tested the most. She won in four sets, as Bates’ senior Kelsey Engman failed to mount a comeback. Fellow sophomore Alex Cornett and freshman Rachel Wagner were also victorious, rolling to straight-set wins.

The Red, however, struggled at the bottom of the lineup. Cornell dropped matches at spots six through nine, plagued by inexperience and lack of depth. Freshman Annie Ritter, already one of the team’s most fiery and competitive players, showed grit in leveling her match at one set all. But her opponent’s diligent, methodical style and strong fitness proved too much, as Ritter dropped the final two sets. A case of mononucleosis, which caused Ritter to miss the Stanford match, may have contributed to fatigue in the final two sets. Likewise, classmate Jen Chu, who is playing the traditionally weak No. 7 position for the Red, lost a four-set affair.

Devoy also emphasized fitness as the deciding factor in both the Red’s match wins against Bates and in its losses.

“We have been training since Jan. 8, and it’s good to see all of our hard work all season paying off,” Devoy said.

The men finished 2-4, beating No. 10 Bowdoin, 5-4, before losing to No. 13 Bates, 5-4.

Both the men’s and women’s teams, which are at the bottom of the top-10 in the national rankings, face important tests in the coming weeks. After a first half schedule featuring some of the country’s top teams, the Red will face teams closer to their own caliber before next month’s NISRA national championships — most notably Ivy League rival Brown on Feb. 11.