Wesleyan Squash hosted Brown University at the Rosenbaum Squash Center on Nov. 22, the Saturday before Thanksgiving break. Both the men’s and women’s squads had a tough run against their opponents from Rhode Island, each losing 8-1. The women then turned around and faced Princeton University on Sunday in New Jersey, again losing 8-1.
Despite unflattering score lines, these matches made one thing clear: Wesleyan has serious power at the top of the ladder, and, in Laila Samy ’18, a potential women’s individual national champion.
The men simply underperformed against 18th-ranked Brown, with Guy Davidson ’16 garnering the Cardinals’ only victory at the number-one spot, continuing his hot start to the season. Chris Hart ’17 was the only losing Cardinal to push his opponent to five games, ultimately falling in a squeaker.
Coach Shona Kerr spoke plainly about the men’s performance.
“They didn’t play as well as they can and Brown is just two or three weeks sharper than us right now,” Kerr said. “What came off their racket was just better than what came off our racket. Can we get a lot closer than that? Yes. So I think the takeaway from the match is that we will learn from it.”
The women went into the weekend knowing that they faced huge challenges against 11th-ranked Brown and 5th-ranked Princeton. The second- through ninth-ranked women were all swept on both days, unable to take a single game off their opposition.
Meanwhile, Samy, at the number-one spot, swept both of her opponents with a fair amount of ease, 3-0.
As Kerr commented, the Princeton match was essentially scheduled for Samy.
“We knew that Princeton was going to be a much stronger team, but we obviously have Laila at one on the women’s side,” Kerr said. “She’s in a different league, and so we needed to schedule some difficult matches so that she had a challenge.”
While the match, which Samy won 11-7, 11-9, 11-9, was considerably tighter than those prior, it was an indication of the Wesleyan number-one’s superlative talents. Her opponent, Olivia Fiechter, who is the top U.S. recruit of 2014 and a highly decorated youth player, was ultimately no match for Samy.
In an unofficial scrimmage that followed, Samy impressively squared off against Princeton’s number two, Maria Elena Ubina, who finished last year ranked fifth individually in college squash. Samy beat Ubina in four, dropping her first game of the season (though it was in an unofficial match, and after sweeping the number-one).
Despite her early domination of the college squash scene, Samy remains humble.
“The Princeton match was a good win and it helped boost my confidence for the next matches,” Samy wrote in an email to The Argus. “My role on the team is to work hard and do my best and to help others do their best, too.”
Samy stressed that being a first-year poses significant challenges.
“It is my first year and I do not know most of my opponents,” she wrote. “I only know the high- ranked players, so my goal is to have good matches against every player and see where I am among them and work from there.”
Even as she adjusts, though, Samy has lofty goals for this season.
“My personal goal for the season is to go in each match to win,” she wrote. “For DIII individuals, I am hoping to play my best, and hopefully win the tournament.”
Division III individuals will take place this weekend at Wesleyan, and Samy enters the weekend as a favorite to win the tournament. Top players on both the men’s and women’s teams will be in action, and both number-ones are expected to have success.
With only Division III individuals remaining and the pre-winter break team schedule now complete, Kerr is happy with how her teams have performed.
“I think they’re doing great,” she said. “We’re really pretty early in the season. It’s only a few weeks in, and you throw Thanksgiving in, which pauses the momentum a little bit. This side of the season is a lot of nuts and bolts, making sure fundamentals are in place, making sure game plans are understood, and seeing what we need to work towards.”
Both teams will be in action over winter break, both locally and on a training and volunteering trip to San Diego. The beginning of the spring semester will bring a better idea of what the squads are able to achieve.
“It’s not about peaking right now; it’s about peaking and coming into our best as the season goes on and we get into the big stuff like NESCACs and nationals,” Kerr said.