February 19, 2007

Squash Goes Unbeaten

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The women’s squash team ended its season this weekend in strong fashion, winning all three of its matches at the NISRA championships to successfully take the Kurtz Division of the Howe Cup. The Red beat rival Bates College in the final round, 6-3, after easily dispatching Stanford and Hamilton, respectively, in the previous two rounds.

The Red (10-8, 0-6 Ivy) bounced back from a disappointing loss at home against Ivy League foe Brown last weekend to achieve its season-long goal.

The tournament began with the Red sweeping Hamilton (10-7), 9-0, without a Cornell player dropping a set. Freshman Annie Ritter, the Red’s No. 6 player, highlighted the win with a 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 clean sweep.

In the semi-finals, Cornell moved past NISRA newcomer Stanford (6-4) 8-1. Only No. 1 player Maxi Prinsen dropped her match, with the Red proving to have far too much depth for the Cardinals to handle. The difference in roster depth was most evident from spots five through nine, as junior Mairin Barnes, freshmen Annie Ritter and Jen Chu, sophomore Alix Watson and senior Margot Dickson did not drop a single set.

“Our play improved throughout the tournament,” said Cornell No. 2 Alex Cornett. “Everyone really stepped it up for this tournament.”

Reaching the final round for the third consecutive season, the Red was able to repeat an earlier 2007 win over Bates College to finally break through for the Kurtz Cup title. Against a national top-10 team, the Red’s top-order players rose to the challenge to seal the victory. No. 2 Cornett, No. 3 Liza Stokes, No. 4 Rachel Wagner and No. 5 Barnes all won their matches, clinching the championship.

Wagner won her match in five sets, giving the Red a crucial win that tipped the balance in its favor. Cornett provided Cornell with another big win, overcoming the upset defeat of Prinsen at the No. 1 spot.

“I have a very methodical style of play,” said Cornett. “I rely on ball placement a lot because I can’t hit it extremely hard … I was really able to play my style today.”

The Red picked up its level of play considerably in the year-ending tournament, improving on 5-4 wins over Stanford and Bates (19-8) earlier this year.

“We came into the final match with a lot of momentum,” said senior co-captain Jamie Singer.

The Red was forced to regroup after the Brown loss to end its regular season, a match which the Red had been building up to for weeks. Despite the loss, the Red was able to improve mentally for the NISRA championships.

“We really maintained focus throughout the week,” Singer said. “There was absolutely no downtime during the matches, we really fought very hard … the improvement was in the mental game, it wasn’t an issue of fitness or anything like that.”

The Brown loss served as a wake-up call to focus the Red even more on the Kurtz Cup.

“After the loss, we told ourselves that we just had to turn it around,” Singer said.