Dartmouth tops women’s squash 5-4, Ephs finish year sixth in the country

Women’s squash clinched the number six ranking in the country with a strong weekend of play at the team national championships at Yale. The ranking not only reaches the highest mark head coach Julie Greenwood has achieved during her tenure at Williams, but also matches the team’s highest ranking ever, last reached during the 1995-96 season.

“The team played its most solid squash this weekend,” Greenwood said. “Each girl at one point this weekend played her best squash of the year. We had been talking about being competitive throughout the year, and I think this weekend the girls really were. We left it all out on the court.”

Coming in as the number seven seed, the Ephs faced off against number two-ranked Harvard in the first round. While every player fought hard, the Crimson, who had beaten the Ephs 9-0 during the regular season, again proved too strong en route to another 9-0 victory. Joanna Leathers ’05, playing number eight, was able to win a tight 9-7 game from her Harvard opponent before losing in four games, while everyone else in the lineup fell 3-0.

After the defeat by Harvard on Friday, the team regrouped to take on fifth-seeded Brown on Saturday. The Ephs had lost to the Bears earlier in the month 7-2 and had come away feeling that they had not played their best squash. Focused and motivated, the Ephs redeemed their regular season loss by rolling over the Bears 8-1. Wins at the top of the lineup by Adrienne Ellman ’03, Selma Kikic ’02, Claire Whipple ’05 and Kate Neal ’04 gave the Ephs four wins.

Leathers, at number eight, also did away with her opponent in three games. However, the performance of the middle of the lineup stood out as the highlight of the match. Number six Whitney Hallagan ’03 and number seven Katherine French ’02 both came back to win five game-matches against their Brown opponents, while number five Andrea Berberian ’05 also won her match in five games after giving up a 2-1 lead. Hallagan rallied back from a 2-1 deficit by winning the last two games 9-5 to win her match, while French came back from a 2-0 deficit to win her last three games 9-2, 9-2, 9-1.

“I felt that we would be competitive at every position, and I expected it to be close at each position,” said Greenwood. “Every person in the lineup played hard, and we got some close wins early in the match. I think that helped build up our momentum, and the team fed off of each other’s energy. I felt that we had the competitive edge in this match, and that was the difference.”

Riding high off an impressive 8-1 win against a Brown team that had handled the Ephs during the regular season, the team rested Saturday night before playing a final match against Dartmouth for the number five ranking. In a tightly contested match, the Ephs played well but were unable to gain a fifth victory and lost a heartbreaker, 5-4.

“It was a tough match for the girls to end on,” said Greenwood. “We started out real competitive, and there was one point where we were up 4-2. At some point, though, I think we got scared.”

In the match, both number two Kikic and number three Whipple repeated their performances of the regular season match, as Kikic took down Dartmouth’s Charlotte Haldeman in four games, while Whipple again rallied back to beat her high school teammate Kelly Sennatt in five games.

At the bottom of the lineup, Leathers won a closely contested four-game match, winning the final game 9-7, while number nine Lexi Lee ’04 won her match in three games. Despite playing some of the best squash of the season, the rest of the lineup could not dig up another win and the team was forced to settle for the number six ranking.

Even though they lost a close final match, the team still had one of the best seasons in its history. Key wins against Penn, Cornell, Amherst and, finally, Brown at championships, highlight a season where the team re-entered the group of the top eight squash teams in the country. The top of the lineup will take the next two weeks to prepare for the individual championships at Princeton.

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