Women’s squash drops one and wins three in busy weekend

This weekend was an unusually packed one for the women’s squash team. It started Friday afternoon with a match against third-ranked Yale, followed later that night by a match against Wellesley, kicking off the weekend-long Williams Invitational Squash Tournament.

Despite Yale’s 9-0 victory, many of the matches were much closer than the scores would suggest. The Williams women played smart squash, mixing up the pace of play and refusing to fluster despite the consistent hard, low shots of Yale’s game.

Members of the U.S. National team topped off Yale’s roster, making for a particularly difficult match for the top Williams players.

Kate Neal ’04, Lexi Lee ’04, Holly Houghton ’06 and Jaye Gregory ’06 made the Yale women work especially hard for the win, but fell just shy of taking a game.

Quite impressively, co-captain Adrienne Ellman ’03 fought tirelessly and took her first game into a tie-breaker in her match against Yale’s Michelle Quibell, whom Yale coach Mark Talbott said “is probably the best junior player the US has seen in 20 years.”

Yale’s strong play helped the Williams women raise their own level of play, making them primed and ready for the weekend’s Williams Invitational Tournament.

Ten schools played in the tournament, crowding the Simon Squash Center with people and energy. This weekend was a big one – it was Squash Parents Weekend and several other Williams teams had contests against Amherst, so there was an enormous student and family attendance at the tournament.

Williams Varsity played 6 matches with the help of a few JV all-stars for several of the matches. “It was great having the JV players to round out the play of some of the matches. Adding them to our ladder kept us from straining ourselves and gave them some good match play experience,” Andrea Berberian ’05 said.

The Ephwomen were victorious in all of the matches, with the exception of the Williams B team, which lost a close 4-5 match to Mt.Holyoke.

The decisive 9-0 victory over Wellesley on Friday night showed the team’s poise and power that would continue throughout the weekend.

The parents of the Williams players were key supporters who provided an impressive cheering force and tailgate feast that reinforced the team’s high morale.

Squash fathers Mr. Lee and Mr. Hallagan were outside working the grill on Saturday, despite below-freezing temperatures.

Perhaps players from other teams enjoyed the tailgate’s baked goods a bit too much, because none moved as quickly or fluidly as the Williams players in subsequent matches.

The weekend ran smoothly, thanks to the organization of Coach Sarah Marks ’00 – fellow coach Zafi Levy was at Yale for the weekend with the men’s team.

“The Williams Invitational is a great opportunity for our entire team to gain valuable match experience by playing 6 matches in a 48-hour span,” Marks said. “I couldn’t be happier with the way the girls competed and the progress they’ve made so far this season. We built great momentum over the weekend and already have our sights set on Wednesday’s match against Dartmouth.”

This weekend was a clear indication of the players’ progress: Williams won 8-1 over Bowdoin and 9-0 over both Bates and Colby, all formidable competitors.

“It was a fun weekend, and everyone played great,” co-captain Whitney Hallagan ’03 said. “After a tough match with Yale on Friday night, the rest of the weekend was a great confidence booster for Dartmouth this Wednesday.”

Hopefully it will be, because Dartmouth should be a very close match, and the team is aiming to avenge their 4-5 loss to Big Green at last year’s Nationals. But the way the team played this weekend, they definitely have the skills and focus to step it up and bring their best game to Hanover.