This past weekend, men’s and women’s squash looked to finish up Ivy competition on a strong note. They played Princeton at home on Friday and were planning on facing Penn on the road on Saturday. However, due to inclement weather conditions, the matches against Penn were rescheduled to Sunday, Feb. 6. In their games against Princeton, the Red failed to gain any momentum, with the men’s team losing, 8-1, and the women’s team falling, 7-2.
The seventh ranked men’s team (3-5, 2-3 Ivy) opened the weekend against No. 5 Princeton (6-3, 3-2). In a rough match, the Red’s sole victory came from No. 8 junior Humza Khan. The team also suffered four 3-0 sweeps at the hands of the Tigers.
“I thought it was a pretty good performance, I mean Princeton, both teams are very strong,” Assistant Head Coach Mark Burke said. “In the men’s there were a lot of competitive matches, 3-1s, close games. I think there were only a couple of matches that were 3-0. So, I mean, I think based on that, I think it was a good performance for the men.”
The eighth ranked women’s team (3-6, 1-4 Ivy), faced a formidable No. 3 Princeton squad (8-2, 4-1). Nevertheless, the Red was able to pull through with a couple of impressive match wins. These victories came via two sweeps by No. 1 senior Sivasangari Subramaniam, and No. 2 sophomore Wen Li Lai.
Cornell also picked up another 3-0 sweep by freshman Kacey Mollenkopf in an exhibition match. But despite these successes, the team found itself on the wrong end of seven Tiger sweeps.
“For the women…when we play the top three teams, we’re looking to try to improve our level,” Burke said.
Matches against top-ranked opponents like Princeton are important to the development of the players and give them the confidence to win future contests.
“Overall I think [Head] Coach [David] Palmer and myself were pretty happy with both the men’s and the women’s team,” Burke said.
With only three overall match wins by the Red between the men and women on Friday, Princeton proved to be a tough challenge for both teams. The women’s team has never beaten the Tigers in any of its 29 matchups.
“[Princeton] has that confidence that they have been a high performing team for many years,” Burke said. “So they all sort of feed off each other. There was not really any match from them where they gave us much of a chance. It’s not like any of them played particularly bad, everybody played well. It’s hard to say. I mean, they were better. That’s about it, all I can really say.”
The highlight of the match, however, was Subramaniam, who improved to 9-0 on the season. The star senior is currently ranked No. 28 in the world for women’s singles. Not only does Subramaniam lead the team with her exemplary performance on the court, she also serves as a model off the court through her unwavering work ethic and determination.
“She’s professional in everything she does,” Burke said. “She trains twice a day when she comes in [and] she trains obviously with the women’s team as well…. We were able to put our top girls, and really all of our starting nine,… on court with her and give them that exposure to her level and her attitude”.
Lai and No. 3 sophomore Selena Georgieva have “been able to lift their performances and their levels since they arrived just by being on court with Siva every day,” which is proven by their positive winning percentages.
Similarly, on the men’s team, No. 1 junior Veer Chotrani continually motivates with his presence both on and off the court.
“He’s a world-class player, and he also lives and breathes squash,” Burke said. “He also trains twice a day and he pushes the rest of the team [with] inspiring performances.”
In his match against the Tigers, Chotrani battled against Princeton’s Youssef Ibrahim, who holds an 8-1 record on the season as well as a No. 15 ranking on the PSA World Tour.
“Last weekend [Chotrani] was 2-0 up…against the number 15 in the world [and] lost in five, but, you know, it gives a buzz,” Burke said. “I was down coaching on courts one and two and then the men’s players were coming down and saying, ‘Hey coach, Veer is 2-0 up, it’s unbelievable! How can you do that sort of thing?’”
Subramaniam and Chotrani look to lead their respective teams to victory in a decisive match against Penn on Sunday.
The Cornell men’s team is currently ranked No. 7 — entitling them to a ticket to the Potter’s Cup, the top division of the CSA’s National Championships, but the matchup against the undefeated Quakers (14-0, 4-0 Ivy) should prove to be difficult.
“I think for the men, it’s, again, sort of a similar situation when we [played] Harvard,” Burke said. “Most of the players are undefeated, but to be honest with you, we sort of try to point out to them that they’ve got nothing to lose, only to go there and try to lift their performance. Again, use it as a springboard to playing the weaker teams or the teams on our level, or the teams that we have a chance to beat.”
The women’s team, on the other hand, will face a ninth ranked Penn team (7-6, 1-3). The Red is currently the No. 8 ranked team in the CSA rankings. Cornell cannot afford a drop in the standings, as only the top eight teams qualify for the Howe Cup, the top division of the CSA’s National Championships for women. If the Quakers win the upcoming matchup, they could overtake the Red and knock Cornell out of playoff contention.
“The women have a chance to win… we’re planning to win,” Burke said. “We’re looking at the lineup and making sure that we’re focusing on that, we’re coaching the women to treat this as… one of the last opportunities to secure a top 8 place, which we haven’t yet done the last [few] years.”
The men’s team will hit the road and compete against No. 10 University of Rochester (1-4) at 5 p.m. on Wednesday before both teams travel to Philadelphia to face Penn at noon on Sunday.