With the CSA National Championships concluding last weekend for the women’s team, the squash season is coming to a close. The Red is now heading to Dartmouth this weekend for the CSA Individual Championships. The three-day tournament this weekend is the last chance for players from Cornell to prove their skills and set their individual rankings in stone for the 2016-2017 season.
Last week the women’s team travelled to Massachusetts for the CSA National Championships. This was the women’s ninth consecutive appearance at the Howe Cup, and they came into the championships seeded seventh. They left the tournament in the same place they started with besting the previous year’s place of eighth.
“I think it was a good finish, and I think coming seventh is pretty much … another good result,” said head coach David Palmer.
Each day of the tournament, the women were faced with a different opponent. The Red played Penn, which was seeded second at the time, and lost with a devastating total of zero matches to Penn’s nine. This was the same outcome as when they played each other in the regular season two weeks prior. The Quakers eventually went on to place second in the division overall.
That loss sent the Red to a match against Stanford, who was seeded sixth in the division.
“[Penn is] a really strong team and they have a lot of strong players, so we kind of knew the outcome of that match, but we thought it would be a good warm-up for Stanford,” said senior co-captain Sydney Francis.
The match ended with a loss for Cornell, as the squad claimed two matches to Stanford’s seven. For the majority of the season, Stanford had been breathing down Cornell’s neck from one place ahead in the rankings, so it was no surprise that their matchup led to some close gameplay.
Francis explained the relatively even match between the two teams.
“The first two matches were neck and neck, pretty close, but they … edge[ed] us out,” Francis said. “I think their overall fitness was a little bit better and their strategic game was a little bit better, so we were a little upset after that. But we knew we could still maintain our position at number seven. We’ve kind of been stuck … between Stanford right above us at number six and Columbia right below us at number eight … and we were just kind of hoping to get out of it.”
Stanford ended up finishing the championships in sixth place.
For its last match, the Red went up against Columbia. Earlier in the season, Cornell edged out its opponent in a 6-3 win. The Lions had spent most of the season in eighth place — right below Cornell — and naturally wanted to prove that the Red’s earlier victory against them was merely a fluke.
Thankfully for Cornell, the Lions’ dreams did not come to fruition. With a match record of 6-3, the Lions suffered yet another defeat at the hands of the Red, permanently placing themselves in eighth for the season.
Palmer commented on the differences between the two wins against Columbia, and how the victories changed.
“It was a bit close,” Palmer said. “I think it was a little bit of a different match. Last time we won, we won a lot of matches in the higher numbers and lost matches down the bottom of the order, and this time it was reverse: the middle of the order, five down, all won and it was really good team effort on the Sunday.”
“I think the biggest takeaway from our match against Columbia on Sunday was validation that we were the number seven team,” Francis said. “We beat them early in the season and they thought it was a little bit of a fluke, so we really needed that bit of validation, both to ourselves and the rest of the squash community.”
For both Francis and her co-captain Rachel Scherman, ending the season with a victory was a bittersweet experience. With both of them graduating this spring, placing seventh with a win against Columbia proved to be a perfect note to end the Red’s winning season of 9-8.
Now both the men and the women of the Cornell squash program are hoping to take that momentum and put it into this weekend’s CSA Individual Championships.
“I am feeling very positive going into this weekend,” said senior captain Harry Freeman. “I had a nice rest period after team nationals and have been training hard these past few days. In my opinion, my game is strong right now.”
Going along with him is sophomore Andy Muran, the “number one and two players” for the men’s team, according to Coach Palmer.
“I don’t really have a goal coming into this weekend,” Scherman said. “Hopefully I can finish better, but if not — I’m not trying to put pressure on myself since [these] are my last official matches, so I’m just gonna have fun and hopefully play well.”
Scherman will be competing for her fourth straight year at Individual Nationals, and she talked about the mentality of going in as a singular player, rather than a whole team.
“To be honest, it’s a lot more relaxed at individuals,” Scherman said. “You don’t feel the same tension that you feel at team matches because everyone’s just playing for themselves. You warm up for yourself and you play for yourself; there’s a lot less pressure in that way. Individuals are for people who are very serious about squash and if you want it, you’ll push as hard as you can, as you [would] in a team match.”
She will be accompanied by the championships junior Michèle Garceau, junior Margaux Losty, junior Emma Uible, sophomore Nghi Nguyen and junior Charlotte Knaggs.
The CSA Individual Championships will be held at Dartmouth from tomorrow March 3 to Sunday March 5.