In the world of collegiate squash, this weekend was everything. Nationals is the most important tournament of the year for the players of the Red.
The Cornell women’s squash team (10-9) played against Harvard on Friday, Yale on Saturday and Columbia on Sunday. After the Red lost their first two matches, they conquered Columbia to claim the seventh spot in the Howe Cup.
“We did better at nationals than what we were ranked at the end of the season,” said sophomore Michele Garceau. “We finished the season ranked eighth in the nation and we came in seventh at nationals. Our team did better than expected on paper, which is fantastic, but I knew we could do it if we all went out and played our best and we did. We beat Columbia on the final day of nationals, and they were ranked one spot ahead of us.”
On the other hand, the Cornell men’s squash team took second place at Nationals in the Hoehn Cup. The Red faced off against Middlebury, George Washington University and then Drexel University. The Red won their first two matches and with a loss in their last game, the exact opposite of the women’s team.
“Our expectations were to win a national title and we fell just short,” said senior Graham Dietz. “It was a frustrating way to end our season.”
The season culminated in these matches, so the teams hoped to leave everything they had on that court before entering their off-seasons. These matches had the most weight and importance to them.
“These matches meant everything for this season,” Garceau said. “Nationals is the final tournament of the season where every team has the chance to prove themselves and come out strong for one last push to see who really is the better team.”
For the men’s team, breaking their six-match winning streak in a 5-4 loss against Drexel was a letdown, but they still showed some great play.
The men’s team, “played really well in the close matches,” Dietz said. “[The] most exciting moment was getting our revenge against GW. We pulled out a tight win 5-4 to get ourselves in the finals.”
A lot of the game is mental, and Garceau attests to aspect in the context of this tournament.
“I think that the reason we beat Columbia to earn that seventh place finish was because on that day, we truly believed in ourselves,” Garceau said. “We truly believed that we could beat them, and we did. We all came together and everyone played amazing squash.”
One of the most exciting moments Garceau watched in the tournament was when her teammate, junior Rachel Scherman, won her match at the No. 2 spot in the game against Columbia.
“It was a very tough match for her because she lost to her opponent last time, so there was a precedent before she stepped on court,” Garceau said. “But she didn’t let that get to her and she played super well and used every ounce of energy in her body and managed to win the match.”
Dietz wishes his team the best of luck in their next season as this was his last. For the rest of the team, the off-season now means training for the next season. It means preparing to ultimately play their best at the next Nationals tournament.