November 26, 2012

SQUASH | Laird Aims High for Senior Season

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Senior co-captain of the women’s squash team, Jaime Laird is ready to face her final year of college squash with determination and tenacity.

“I don’t want to jinx myself,” Laird said. “But I have very high hopes for the season. Cornell has been knocking on the doors of those teams sitting in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th positions and this year we’re looking to move out of the school’s best position of No. 6. Personally, I would like to maintain my spot on the high court (the top three spots).”

Laird was raised in Calgary and attended Western Canada High School. There, she played several sports such as badminton, diving, track and most notably soccer, serving as captain and leading the team to three consecutive city championship titles. However, it soon became apparent that squash was Laird’s true forte.

Laird began playing squash at her local sports club at age 11 and since then has earned six Alberta Provincial Championship titles. She joined Team Canada in 2006 and helped lead the team to a silver medal in 2007. At Cornell, her contributions have been equally as spectacular.

Laird currently plays in the No. 2 spot on Cornell’s roster, behind junior teammate Jesse Pacheco. Last year, Laird finished her junior season with second-team All-American and first-team All-Ivy titles, boasting a CSA (College Squash Association) ranking of No. 20. This is up two spots from her No. 22 ranking her sophomore year.

“She came into college with a lot of experience and competitiveness, but she has since developed a much more creative side and has learned to do more creative shots,” said head coach Julee Devoy. “Over the past four years, she has improved steadily and her game at the moment is the strongest it has ever been.”

Laird also serves as one of the team’s captains for the second year in a row. Alongside senior teammate Maggie Remsen, Laird notes that her role as captain has been to inspire the team with positive reinforcement and to lead by example. Devoy has highlighted Laird’s quality as a role model for the team.

“We really just do our best to keep the team pumped up with a positive attitude,” Laird said on the role she and Remsen play as captains. “The pre-season can feel like a grind since it drags on for a while, but with the season in full swing now we can see the training paying off and the team attitude at a high. We’re ready to take down some of the big names.”

Laird not only shows dominance and passion on the court, but she is also an extremely dedicated student. She majors in environmental engineering and despite her busy squash schedule, Laird finds time to study and maintain her academic prowess at Cornell.

“Having a sport or any extra-curricular just forces you to balance your time more effectively,” Laird said. “I wasn’t always good at it, but now that I’m senior I’ve figured out how to get work done between the end of class and the start of practice each day.”

Teammates and coaches alike have commented on Laird’s attitude as one of humbleness and positivity. She is undoubtedly one of Cornell’s most competitive players, but Laird is not one to brag. Throughout her Cornell career, her exemplary on-court manners and her unwavering modesty have brought her several sportsmanship awards.

“As one of the top players in college squash, you’d expect her to be cocky and overconfident, but Jaime always plays with modesty,” Pacheco said. “Even when she is losing, she’ll come off court only to focus on a new game plan to win the next game and seal the match. It’s so refreshing and that’s what I admire most about her.”

“Any time she is on court, her sportsmanship is immaculate,” Devoy said. “She knows how to lose gracefully and has total respect for her opponents. I have nothing but admiration for her.”

Laird is off to a good start this season, with one 3-0 win in her match against Williams and a close loss in the match against Stanford. She is looking to receive yet another All-Ivy and All-American title. Regardless of the team’s record this season, which Laird feels will be stronger than ever, the Canadian superstar declared squash an extremely positive experience and commented on what it has given her over the course of her college career.

“After taking a year off post high school graduation I was faced with the choice of staying in Canada and pursuing academics alone, or taking a spot on Cornell’s squash team, and I could not be happier with the decision I made. Squash has brought me so much pride here at Cornell and has made me really feel connected to the school, not to mention all the friends I have made in teammates both past and present.”

Original Author: Katie Schubauer