Hometown: Great Neck, N.Y.
Snack bar order: Nachos
Why did you decide to play squash at the College?
I knew I wanted to go to a small school with good academics and athletics. I always heard good things about Williams and their squash team, including the great team dynamic. I had heard that they were a really nice group of girls who got along well, which is not the case for all teams. When I visited the school, I loved it and knew I wanted to come here. Then I met with [head coach] Zafi Levy, and it seemed like a perfect fit. I was also here over the summer for squash camp before my senior year of high school, and it’s so beautiful here in the summer, so it was definitely another appealing factor.
What’s your sports background? Why did you start playing squash at age 14?
I played sports growing up and tried many different ones. In middle school, I was a fencer. My friend’s sibling played squash and was talking to my mom and said, “Nicole, you should try squash!” I did and loved it and haven’t stopped ever since.
You taught squash over the summer at the College. Can you tell me what that experience was like?
I actually started the year before I was a freshman and enjoyed it so much I coached for the next three summers. My first summer, I coached half younger kids and half high school kids, and I really enjoyed the experience. It’s beautiful here in Williamstown, and Zafi brings in amazing professional squash players to teach at the camp. When I coached the high school kids, a lot of them were seniors looking to come to Williams. They would always ask me questions, and it’s really nice to get to know a lot of future teammates before they come to Williams.
What is your relationship with Head coach Zafi like?
Every day with Zafi is different – he is definitely very entertaining, and he keeps us on our toes. He always wants us to have fun while working really hard. Overall, he’s a great coach. He’s very approachable and receptive. I go to him to discuss our practice, or I even give him some of my own ideas. Over the years, he [got] to know us better, and by now, as a senior, I can tell him anything, and he’s open – he wants to be there for his players.
How do you think you have developed as a player over your four years at the College?
Prior to coming to Williams, I was only playing squash for a few years, and being part of the Williams squash team gave me the opportunity to practice, train and even have mentors who helped me to improve my game. I’ve been No. 1 on the team for four years; freshman year was a shock, playing girls who were a lot older than me with a lot more squash experience. My freshman year was a really big jump for me but very motivating. Whenever I lost a match, I thought to myself, “I’m going to beat these girls next year.” I’ve been very motivated to train hard because I didn’t want to be the No. 1 who lost her matches. I want to be that No. 1 who is going to win every week. I’ve grown each year and developed so much as a player. I’m beating girls now that I lost to when I was in juniors, so I have definitely seen my growth and improvement, and I am really happy to see how far I’ve come.
Being the No. 1, do you feel pressure to lead the team?
Yes. Especially as a senior, I’ve definitely put a lot of pressure on myself because it’s my last season, and I want to be as high up in the overall rankings as possible, and I’m really working hard toward that. I need to set an example as No. 1 in that [even] though I’m in the highest spot on our team ladder, I still work really hard to reach my personal potential. So I’m always motivated everyday to work really hard. I love it because I’m playing the best players in the country, so I know every match is going to be a good match.
What would you say are your most memorable moments in squash?
I have two. One was my sophomore year. We were playing Franklin & Marshall, and the match score was four all, and I was last to go on the court. I [had] lost to this girl the year before 3-0, so I was really nervous and felt a lot of pressure. But I got on the court and won the match for us, and it was one of the greatest squash moments ever. And another one happened last year. We were playing Princeton. They were ranked two in the country, so I went into the match knowing that this was a very high level player, but I went out there and fought hard, and I won the match in five. The score was 18-16 in the fifth game. It was a crazy match, and I proved to myself that I can compete with the best girls in the country.
What were some of your toughest moments?
Last year at nationals was really tough. Our season is so long; it starts Nov. 1, and last year, the last week of February was nationals. Also, there were only 11 girls on the team, the smallest the team has been since I’ve been here. We got to nationals, and we lost to a lower seeded team, Drexel. Basically, they just performed better than us that day. The next day, we also had a match we should have won because we beat them the last time, and we lost that one, too. That was one of the toughest moments because we worked so hard all season, and we beat these teams during the season, and in the end, it just didn’t work out. This year, nationals are a week earlier, so that will be advantageous for us because it’s one less week of hard practice, and we are ready to go. We are already ready for nationals and are motivated everyday to reach our goals.
What’s your relationship with the other two captains, Hayley Parsons ’18 and Ananya Mahalingam-Dhingra ’18, like?
Over the past four years, besides playing together, we have also built our friendships, which has made it easy for us to make all of our decisions together. At times it can be hard with three people to pass along information between all three of us, but we always work things out. If one player tells one captain something, we have to always remember to relay the information to the rest of the captains. We have a group chat, and we put everything in there. Most of all, we respect each other as friends and team leaders. The main goal is always what is best for the team, and being captains together has made our friendships stronger as well.
What are the goals for the rest of the season?
As a team goal, we always want to get to the finals [in the NESCAC Championship]. Also, every year I’ve been here we’ve lost to Brown in a really tough 5-4 match, so this year I really want us to win. For nationals, I would love for us to move up in the rankings through a strong performance. We want a chance to play and beat a couple teams we lost to during the season. For me personally, I am playing in the individuals tournament two weeks after nationals, which is a great opportunity for me to demonstrate my growth over the past four years during the last tournament of my college squash career. It’s a lot of pressure because I have really high goals for myself for overall rankings in the country, and I am excited to see what I achieve there.
Any advice for younger players on the team?
Keep working hard and stay motivated. It’s a really long season, and our team has so much potential. Every practice is an opportunity to improve – show up each day ready to give it your all.