The men’s and women’s squash teams will start their season this weekend with the Wesleyan Round Robin at the Rosenbaum Squash Center. On Saturday, both teams will play Tufts and Middlebury, and on Sunday, the women will face Hobart and William Smith Colleges while the men square off against Bates.
Despite both teams losing four-year number-one players, the Cardinals hope to improve this season even as they make major transitions. Head Coach Shona Kerr, entering her 10th season at the helm, hopes for both sides to improve.
“Our goal would be to win the third division and/or sneak up into the second division, and I think that is the goal for both teams,” Kerr said. “On the men’s side, the strength comes in the depth of the team. From number three or four down, anybody could beat anybody on any given day. We have a great number one, we might struggle a little bit at two and three, but from four down we’re going to be pretty good.”
Meanwhile, the women will be hoping that serious talent at the top will bring team success.
“We’re going to be pretty strong up top,” Kerr said. “We’re not going to lose at one. I can’t really emphasize what a different class [Laila Samy ’18] is in. And we have two returning seniors that have played two and three and been very successful. We have solid depth, but I anticipate us doing well at one through five, for sure.”
The 21st-ranked women’s team hopes to improve on an 11-12 mark from last season. After graduating four-year number-one Mary Foster ’14, the Cards will be heavily reliant on underclassmen this season.
“Losing Mary was definitely an adjustment for our team, as she was a wonderful teammate and leader during her time at Wes,” said Captain Lauren Nelson ’15 in an email to The Argus. “Luckily for us, one of our three freshmen, Laila Samy, will be taking her spot this year. Laila is a truly impressive athlete and will be a huge asset to our team.”
Samy, a high school All-American, is projected to be one of the best in women’s college squash. Coach Kerr was full of praise for Samy.
“She is potential national champion material, period,” Kerr said.
The three new recruits for this year’s women’s team are all predicted to be in the top nine and will have a big impact on team success. With this combination of an influential freshman class and a veteran core, Nelson has lofty goals for the season.
“As a team we are aiming to finish in the top 16 this season and we also hope to place higher than previous years in the NESCAC tournament,” Nelson said.
The 20th-ranked men’s team is coming off a 15-8 overall record, a 5th-place finish at the NESCAC championships, and a 19th place finish at the College Squash Association National Championships. Graduating three top-nine players, the Cardinals have had a competitive preseason culminating in final challenge matches to decide the ladder this past weekend.
Captain Guy Davidson ’16 is coming off a very strong 15-5 season at number two, and will look to fill the big shoes of John Steele ’14 at the top spot. A four-year number one, Steele spearheaded the rise of men’s squash at Wesleyan, leading the team to winning records in each of the last four years after nine consecutive losing seasons. Davidson recognizes the challenge that he faces.
“It’s going be tough,” Davidson said. “He was really good. I learned a lot from watching him, so that’s going to help a lot. I’m really excited to get to play the top guys.”
Veteran Captain Cameron Rahbar ’15, a father figure to the squad, believes that Steele’s legacy has lit a fire under him and his teammates.
“It’s always a big hit when you lose a top player,” Rahbar said. “But that kind of vacuum has motivated everyone on the team to step up and play their best.”
Rahbar laid out clear team goals for the upcoming year.
“We have two team goals going into the season,” he said. “Our first is to win the sportsmanship award, and our second is to either win the C draw, or get into the B draw for nationals.”
Rahbar also pointed out the benefits of having no new members on the team.
“This year we came into the season knowing exactly who is going to be on our team, and so we were able to hit the ground running from day one,” he said.
Fan favorite Alex Kamisher ’17 spent most of last year at the number-nine spot, garnering an impressive 16-5 record. After working hard this summer, Kamisher sees this year as a great opportunity.
“My personal goal is to perform under the pressure of the big matches including NESCAC matches against Williams, Amherst, and Middlebury,” Kamisher said. “We’re really excited for the Middlebury and Bates matches,” he said. “They will be really big tests for us. We nearly beat Middlebury last year and hopefully we can pull it out this year.”
Kamisher is a member of a large sophomore class that Kerr feels will make a big impact this year.
“The sophomores are a strong class,” Kerr said. “We knew they had potential. They were sort of like junior squash players last year, and now they’re maturing adult squash players.”