On Saturday, Nov. 22, men’s and women’s squash shipped up to Cambridge to compete versus The University of Virginia and Bates College as part of Harvard’s Boston Round Robin tournament, which saw Stanford University, Brown University, and Hamilton also take the court.
Both squads were shorthanded heading into the weekend, which the players handled admirably. With a much smaller roster than last year due to graduation, a transfer, and two players studying abroad this fall, the women’s team utilized all nine of their current players, including three first-years and two other newcomers, on Saturday.
The men’s team’s ladder suffered similarly as an injury to captain and first-seeded player Guy Davidson ’16 bumped everyone up a spot in the ladder. Also, the squad missed Alex Kamisher ’17, who played in the four spot last season and is abroad in Australia this semester.
Both matches were played in the depths of Harvard’s squash complex, which consists of 16 courts, and the atmosphere simply could not compare to the magical Rosenbaum Squash Center.
Heading into the weekend, both squads understood that, especially with fractured rosters and new ladders, Saturday would be a major litmus test. Most players were bumped up the ladder from last year, meaning they were facing higher caliber players who put them under intense pressure to perform at their highest possible level.
The men fell 8-1 to unranked but vastly improved UVA and 9-0 to 14th-ranked Bates, whose top player won college squash’s individual national championship last season. Grant Lounsbury ’17 won the only match for the Cards in the number-five spot in three games versus UVA. Many of the matches went to five games, including both of Yahya Ladiwala ’19’s matches, the first two of his Wesleyan career.
The women lost 8-1 to UVA and 6-3 to 15th-ranked Bates. Laila Samy ’18 predictably continued her dominance at the top spot, and was joined by Tatum Leclair ’18 and Ali Imperiale ’19 in the afternoon contest versus the Bobcats. To finish just two wins away from victory with five new members of the lineup and two players abroad is an extremely encouraging sign for the Cardinals, as noted by Captain Liza Bayless ’16.
“We had some tough losses against UVA and Bates yesterday, but were really excited about a 6-3 takeaway with Bates,” Bayless said. “Some of the matches, especially at the very end of our ladder, have a lot of potential if we run into them again since our players there are improving so much week by week. Tatum, Laila, and Ali came away with some amazing, hard fought wins against Bates and we’re especially excited about Ali’s first college win. Overall, it was just great to get out on the courts for our first matches, and I think we all have much better ideas of what we each need to work on and how to push ourselves moving forward and looking towards the Wesleyan Round Robin in a few weeks.”
Samy was similarly thrilled to be back out on the court.
“I’m happy with the team’s performance today,” she said. “It was the first two matches of the season so we were all nervous, we’re all not used to playing non-Wesleyan players so it was a good start. Everyone really tried their best in every single match, and I’m really happy with the start we’ve made.”
Zachary Roach ’17, who played in the number-four spot on the day, went down in a tight three to a talented Cavalier and then took another strong Bates opponent, senior captain Caran Arora, to five games but fell just short.
“We came out flat against Virginia and we paid for it,” he said. “They have several matches under their belts and it was our first of the year, and that was very clear throughout. Against Bates, everyone played with a lot more confidence and there were some really tight matches that could’ve gone either way.”
The lanky Cardinal displayed scintillating athleticism and stubborn resilience against the his veteran Bobcat opponent. Despite an 0-2 weekend, Roach took positives away from the weekend.
“After shaking off my nerves in the Virginia match, I was able to bounce back with a strong performance against Bates,” he said. “Even though I lost in five, I’m feeling very confident in my game moving forward.”
The women look forward to the Wesleyan Round Robin after the Thanksgiving break, but the men will have to wait until January for a chance to improve their record. By that time, hopefully, both teams will be at full capacity as they head into the bulk of their campaign.