In a competition-packed weekend, Cornell’s men’s and women’s squash teams hosted a total of five competitors at the Belkin Squash Courts in Ithaca. Both teams, fighting for a spot in the College Squash Association National Championships, fell to Drexel University on Saturday, but ended the regular season on a high note, easily defeating St. Lawrence University on Sunday.
Before facing off against Drexel and St. Lawrence, the No. 7 men’s team (6-7, 2-4 Ivy) hosted No. 12 Western University (5-3) on Friday and came away with an easy 9-0 victory.
“Everyone did well to win their matches comfortably,” said No. 1 junior Veer Chotrani. “Sometimes these easy matches tend to become a little tricky if we lose focus or take the opposition lightly.”
Next, the men’s squad faced No. 9 Drexel (11-6), which proved to be a much more difficult matchup. The Red lost 6-3, with their only victories coming from Chotrani, No. 4 senior Charles Culhane, and No. 8 junior Humza Khan.
“Cornell is ranked a couple spots above Drexel, so I think they saw this match as their last opportunity to get into the top A division,” said Khan. “They fought hard every game, and we unfortunately lost some close key matches. They put pressure on us by winning early matches and kept that consistency, and unfortunately we weren’t able to come back.”
This loss against the ninth-ranked Dragons could potentially affect the Red, currently at the seventh spot, and risk its opportunity to compete in the Potter Cup, the top division of the CSA National Championships. The rankings that determine which teams will compete will be fully set by the end of the week.
“We always knew it was going to be a really tough match, and we were ready to give everything,” said Chotrani.
The Red never lacked any skill against a tough competitor, but small mistakes stacked up.
“I think experience and playing smart squash at the crucial moments cost us a little,” Chotrani said. “And also, they were trying to be a little naughty on court, which affected us mentally, and we lost focus.”
The No. 9 women’s team (4-8, 1-5) also struggled against No. 6 Drexel (10-3), dropping the match 6-3. The team’s three victories came from No. 1 senior Sivasangari Subramaniam, No. 3 sophomore Selena Georgieva and No. 5 senior Lily Zelov.
“We knew Drexel would be a difficult match, and we came very close to pulling off an upset,” Zelov said. “Drexel has a strong team top to bottom. Most of their top 9 are international players, so most of us had not seen them play in tournaments growing up and [were] unfamiliar with their styles of play.”
With their loss to the Dragons, however, the women’s team dropped in the rankings from eighth to ninth after being overtaken by the University of Pennsylvania. This leaves them out of competition for the Howe Cup, the top division of the CSA National Championships.
For most of the season, the Red held steady in the top eight of the CSA national rankings, which would have sent them to compete for the Howe Cup. Unfortunately, a few key losses determined their final standing in the ninth spot.
“We had four matches that we really wanted to target to hold our spot in the top eight: UVA, Columbia, Penn and Drexel, and we lost all 4 by very close scores, 4-5 and 3-6,” said Zelov.
Despite losses by both the men and women, they saw a quick turnaround as Sunday’s match against St. Lawrence constituted Senior Day, the last home match for the seniors.
Both teams delivered in their final matchup of the regular season. The men’s team won 8-1 against the No. 15 St. Lawrence (14-7), with their only loss coming as Chotrani retired early due to injury. The Saints barely put up a fight, and every single one of the Red’s eight wins came via a 3-0 sweep.
“It was great seeing the seniors compete and win matches for us,” said Khan.
Similarly, the women’s team pulverized No. 20 St. Lawrence (11-7) by a scoreline of 9-0, with each of their victories coming through a 3-0 sweep.
With her two individual wins over the weekend against the Dragons and Saints, Subramaniam extended her undefeated season to an unbelievable 12-0.
“I’m proud of our performance this weekend …we did our job against St. Lawrence, and it was nice to get a win on Senior Day,” said Zelov.
Coming up next on the schedule for both teams is the CSA National Team Championships. The women’s team still has a chance to compete for the Kurtz Cup in the B division.
“It was, of course, awesome to have a season in general,” said Zelov, regarding the return of collegiate sports following the canceled 2020 season. “But it was not without its frustrations … I don’t think we reached our full potential this season, but I am optimistic for a strong finish as we head into Nationals.”
If the men’s team can hold on to their seventh position, they will be slated to compete for the Potter Cup, beginning this Friday in Philadelphia, for the first time since 2014.
“The team has been training at a high level and dedicating a lot of hard work to this last week of the season,” said Khan, looking ahead to the Championships. “I’m feeling very positive about the upcoming championships. I believe we have some of the best coaches and captains who are really pushing us to finish the year off strong in Philadelphia next weekend.”
Chotrani, echoing his teammate’s comments, vowed not to make the same mistakes as the regular season again and looked to finish the season off on a strong note.
“We’ll be training hard for these three days before heading to Philadelphia,” he said.“I think everyone has learned from all their mistakes over the course of this entire season, and we hope not to make those mistakes again and try to win all the three matches over the weekend.”
After retiring due to injury in his match against St. Lawrence, Chotrani hopes to bounce back in time to compete this upcoming weekend.
“Personally for me, I have had a great season overall but have been struggling a little with injuries these past two weeks,” said Chotrani. “But I will make sure I am pain free to perform this weekend and also start preparing for the individual championships starting [the] first week of March.”