February 22, 2008

W. Squash Heads to CSA National Championships

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The women’s squash team will ride its five-game win streak into this weekend’s CSA National championships, facing Hamilton today in the first round. With wins over Williams, Toronto, St. Lawrence, Mt. Holyoke and William Smith, the Red hasn’t lost a match since Jan. 27, propelling it to an 8-6 record. As the team strategizes for this weekend, the players are setting their sights on two past opponents — Mt. Holyoke and Williams. If the Red moves on past the first round, Mt. Holyoke and Williams could be competitors in the later stages.
“[We want to play] Mt. Holyoke in the semi-finals and Williams in the finals,” said sophomore Liza Stokes. “We defeated Mt. Holyoke 5-4 two weeks ago. Our top-4 lost to their international players. However, we know what to expect and are ready for a second chance to make the final score more decisive. We are all extremely determined to defeat Williams in the finals and to capture the No. 9 spot in the final rankings.”
“At the moment we’re ranked 10th,” freshman Izzy Spyrou said. “But we beat the No. 9 seed, Williams, earlier in the season so hopefully we can come back and do the same again. … Our big matches are going to be against Mount Holyoke and Williams; hopefully, we’ll play them in the semis and finals if all works out as planned. Both teams are pretty well-rounded, so we are relying on everyone on our team to play well.”
To train for the CSA Nationals, the Red has been preparing itself both physically and mentally for any challenges it might have to confront on the court. The team is attempting to walk the fine line between effective training and physical burnout in order to perform at the most optimal level this weekend.
“Our practices have been very intense, and everyone has been working really hard,” said freshman Jennifer Gemmell. “We are all excited and positive going into this weekend.”
“The past two weeks, practice has been less regimented, allowing us to focus on improving our individual weaknesses,” Stokes said. “[Head coach] Julee [Devoy] trusts us to know what these weaknesses are and to work hard on improving them. We are still incorporating fitness at the end of practice, but she is being careful not to burn us out before the big weekend.”
The matches this weekend will require a combined, successful effort from all the players. Top performers in the clutch — including junior Alex Cornett, who won the deciding match in the 5-4 victory over Williams earlier in the season — will be important if the team hopes to advance in the tournament. Additionally, several players are still attempting to overcome significant injuries incurred during the season. With a long weekend ahead of them, the team is rallying for the Nationals.
“It’s always a team effort, but we are definitely relying on specific areas of the ladder for different matches,” Stokes said. “The bottom half of the ladder [No. 5 through No. 9] are key players in our match against Mt. Holyoke, as they have four international players who are expected to defeat our top-4. We are hoping to meet Williams in the finals, in which case everyone has to show up in order for us to win. During the season, the outcome came down to the match of Alex Cornett, who is the ideal person to have in that situation. She is a determined, consistent, and reliable player. [Sophomore] Rachel Wagner will also be a key player this weekend, as her speed and fast-paced game are useful weapons in women’s squash.”
With a division win in sight, the Red will put its hard work to the test on the court this afternoon in Princeton, N.J. The entire season has been built up to this weekend, and the team members do not intend to disappoint.
“We have been preparing for this tournament for a while, and I think everyone is playing well,” Gemmell said. “We are all confident going into this weekend, and the teams that we will most likely play we have already played. This allows us to strategize based on how we did the last time. … Our goal is to win our division — the B division — which is very possible.”