November 3, 2010

Squash Team Prepares for Beginning of League Play

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The women’s squash team has been waiting for a chance to show the Ivy League what it can do.

“We just started practice Oct. 15 officially. It’s always an exciting time because we finally get to practice together as a team under my direction,” said head coach Julee DeVoy.

The first task ahead of the Red is the Ivy scrimmages, which will kick off this weekend against Yale.

“We start preparing for the Ivy scrimmages first,” DeVoy said. “It’s always exciting — you get to see the new teams and see where they are going to fit in the line up. It’s a good event to start out with. Also, its the first away trip for the incoming freshman so they get to see what college squash is all about.”

Although these are just scrimmages, they still play an important role in the season.

“All the Ivy League teams play and they tend to be the strongest in the league. The matches don’t count for anything, but it’s good to see who’s out and about and how you fair against them,” DeVoy said.

The women’s squash team is looking a lot different this year. Five seniors graduated, which is about half of the team. This change opened up several spots for new players.

Senior Jennifer Gemmell, one of the team’s captains, expressed her excitement about this reshaping of the team.

“We have a lot of new freshmen — three of them — and two transfers so I’m looking forward to having a really strong season and just kind of showing the new players what college squash is about. We’re trying to have a very cohesive, fun, yet successful season with everyone welcoming the numerous new editions,” Gemmell said.

Junior Lauren Sachvie, the other team captain, recognizes that this poses a great challenge for the team as well.

“I think because we have such a young team, who are not as experienced in the college squash world, it’s going to be a little nerve racking for them at first. We have a lot of weight to pull because we lost some good players but I think we’re going to do okay,” Sachvie said.

So far, the Red is doing its best to rise to the challenge.

“It’s just a different team dynamic,” Gemmell said. “Everyone is integrating into the team, everyone is uncomfortable now. It’s just a little difficult when you have so many players leave and new ones come in; we need to build new team morale and cohesiveness. We’ve done a good job so far and we’re all ready to continue on. The new players have been awesome; they are training really hard. We’re just excited to get the team going and get the season started.”

Another challenge the team is facing this year is the inching forward of teams whose rankings have been close to the Red in the past.

“The biggest challenges for us are going to be regular season matches against Dartmouth and Brown,” DeVoy said. “We beat them fairly handily last year, but this year they added strength to their lineup and we lost some strength. We are much more evenly matched, so those are big matches. We have time to work towards winning those.”

Beating Dartmouth and Brown is important if the Red wants to maintain its No. 7 ranking from the end of last season.

“Our goal is to definitely stay Top-8 in the division which I think we will and regain that 6th seed by the end of the year,” Sachvie said.

However, the team is also looking at the teams ahead of them as well.

“We also want to be able to put up a good fight against the Top-5 and be very competitive, and possibly beat them,” Gemmell said.

Stanford is ranked just ahead of the Red at No. 5, but the two will not get a chance to match-up until after the regular season is over.

The men’s team is also ready for its season to start.

“We look forward to the start of the season to see how we match-up with the other teams that are out there this season. That is one of the attractions of going to the scrimmage this weekend. We see what the Ivy teams are fronting up this season,” said men’s head coach Mark DeVoy.

Unlike the women’s team, the men’s team has not changed so drastically from last season.

“We are not all that much different this season,” DeVoy said. “We are basically about the same, maybe slightly stronger. I lost my No. 1 last year to graduation and he is sort of being replaced by his brother. In a way, I sort of lost one and got the other. That keeps our strength up. He is relatively new to college squash though as a transfer sophomore. We also have a freshman as a new edition. Even though they are relatively strong players they need to get a little bit of experience to college squash because they are not used to playing in a team.”

However even minor changes to a team can pose a new trial to overcome.

“I think that even though we only have two new players, the team is going to be a lot younger because we have rising juniors playing really important roles and sophomores playing important roles too. Hopefully we are going to be a lot better and closer than we have been in a few years,” said junior captain Pat Brady.

For the men’s team, there is no time to lose getting adjusted for the season.

“Right now we are getting everyone fit and healthy for the game,” DeVoy said. “We have a bunch of games that can get us set for the rest of the season so its important for us to get in shape … because our important matches are right at the beginning.”

The Red is looking towards maintaining its spot from last year, and surpassing that mark.

“The goal is to stay where we are,” DeVoy said. “We are currently ranked No. 6, all going well and barring injuries, we should hopefully get into the No. 5 spot. That’s a realistic goal for us to jump a level, depending on a few factors.”

One of those factors is the competing teams the Red need to beat to jump a spot in the rankings.

“We’re really looking forward to avenging some close losses to Harvard and Princeton from last year,” Brady said.

The Red beat Harvard two years ago and is hoping to do so again this year, when it plays them on its home turf. Another factor that will determine the Red’s success this year is its ability to fend off other teams vying for their spot.

“We are weary of Franklin and Marshall and Dartmouth,” DeVoy said. “They both added a bit of strength to their teams this year so they will be serious contenders. We play an away game at [Franklin and Marshall] this year and that could be a bit of a make or break for us. It’s a crucial match for us — we don’t want to go dropping a match to them.”

Overall, the team feels it can rise to the challenge.

“We’re young and we’re trying to be really close. We have a lot of guys who need to really step up for us even though they are a little less experienced,” Brady said. “We are focusing on just playing together as a team and having younger players step up to leadership roles.”

Original Author: Dani Abada