When William Smith College and Northeastern University came knocking on the doors of the Rosenbaum Squash Center last Saturday, the women’s squash team was ready to pounce. After sending the Herons back upstate with a 7-2 loss, the Cardinals made quick work of the Paws in the afternoon matchup, taking every match for a 9-0 victory. These victories evened their record at 2-2.
“People pulled out some great matches and everyone seemed to come out on court today ready to go,” captain Liza Bayless ’16 said. “It was freezing this morning and super hot this afternoon, but we people were fine. We adapted—we’re an adaptable team. It was kind of funny, too…. I like the hot court much better.”
Positives abounded for the Cardinals on the day, as the squad dealt handily with every challenge the opposition (and thermostat) dished out.
“It was freezing in here this morning,” said Tatum Leclair ’18. “We got on court and the ball was just dying. But a big theme was just sticking to the game plan, and realizing that we don’t have to win all the points perfectly.”
The victory versus William Smith was the squad’s first of the season. Laila Samy ’18, Bayless, and Ale Lampietti ’19 earned straight-game victories. Samy, predictably, handled her opposite number-one 11-4, 11-2, 11-3, in about ten minutes. Bayless and Lamipietti were similarly comfortable in two of their three games, but each also conjured massive comebacks on their way to victory. Bayless came back from a 9-2 deficit in the second game to win 12-10, and Lampietti won the second game in her match by the same margin after digging herself out of a 10-3 hole.
“Those were both really exciting, and kind of unique,” Bayless said. “Comebacks like those don’t happen that often.”
Captain Bridget Doherty ’16 and Tatum Leclair ’18 each won in tight four-game matches, while newcomer Ali Imperiale ’19 squeaked out a win in five after giving up a two-game advantage.
“Hobart’s always interesting because it’s like trying to put structure in chaos, if that makes sense, because they crosscourt it a lot,” Leclair said. “It was really good for the bottom of our ladder because there were a lot of close matches and good match experience.”
Imperiale handled her opponent in the first two games, but her grip slipped and she lost games three and four 11-0 and 11-3, respectively. But even with the momentum heavily in her opponent’s favor, Imperiale stood strong and eked out game five 11-9 to improve her season record to 2-1 (she ended the day at 3-1 after the rout of Northeastern).
The herons forfeited the ninth-seed match, and, at seven and eight, newcomers Ellen Paik ’16 and Tessa Hill ’16, both of whom had never played competitive squash before this season, couldn’t get by their William Smith counterparts. Paik, though, put up a real fight and started and won the first game of her young squash career, 11-8. The rest of the match was competitive: The following three games went to Hobart’s number seven by scores of 11-8, 11-5, and 11-8.
The matches on Saturday proved that despite a rough start against heavy competition, Wes Squash has a lot to offer this season. Against the club team from Northeastern, the Cards showed their class, winning at every position (firsts for Paik, Hill, and Anna Knes ’19). After the matches, many Wes players scrimmage different-seeded members of the opposing team, a gracious gesture that benefitted both programs.
“Today was super exciting,” said Bayless. “It was nice to have a closer match, and that gave us a lot more confidence and playing people on a more similar level than two weekends ago. People played really hard.”
“Everyone was really coachable in the first match,” added Assistant Coach Tim Bacon. “And recently [Head] Coach [Shona] Kerr has been organizing practices around specific tasks, and so [it’s] funny to see that now when we’re telling players to do something in game, they’re really taking that advice and running with it. Practice is transferring over to match play, which is excellent to see.”
Bacon, who comes to Wesleyan after 21 years at the helm of the Smith College squash program, is a huge addition to the coaching staff. His match-coaching experience allowed Coach Kerr to leave the second match early to take the men’s team to Chelsea Piers, an athletic Mecca in Stamford, to play some practice matches against the top-level junior players and squash pros who train there. Their scheduled collegiate matches last weekend were canceled at the last minute.
“It was nice to have a change of scenery and get to play some good players despite the fact that our matches were canceled this weekend,” said Zachary Roach ’17.
Both teams host Conn this Friday at 6:30 p.m. before departing for winter break. If the first few weeks of competition are any indication, those matches will both be awesome.