Squash is not easy. After watching two blistering days of action at The Rosenbaum Squash Center, I found myself so moved by the fluid, breathtaking play of the Cardinal men and women that I took to those selfsame courts on Sunday sure that I could replicate at least a certain degree of my classmates’ grace and skill. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, I was sharply deluded. Where Alex Kamisher ’17 had lengths that were tight and consistent, mine seemed loose and erratic. While the maned, bearded, and bandanna(ed) Zachary Roach ’17 channeled some combination of Roger Federer and David Foster Wallace out there, I fell far short in my own masquerade, unable to back up my bright-colored attire with any measurable degree of skill. And I didn’t even try to match Liza Bayless ’16 with her deadly rails or Laila Samy ’18 and her unreturnable lobs. All of this is to say that a bullish combination of genius and dedication to craft springs up in the annex beneath the weight room of the Freeman Athletic Center during the winter season. If you haven’t yet experienced it, get yourself down there. They make it look so easy.
Both the men and women’s squash teams weren’t afforded much of a New Year’s hangover as they returned to campus on the third of January to resume training and prepare for the business end of their season in January and February. The team escaped the cold for a week to train and bond in San Diego, but returned to compete two weekends ago at the Pioneer Valley Invitational in western Massachusetts. There, the men bested Stanford University, 9-0 and 20th-ranked Colby, 5-4, and the women took down 27th-ranked Mount Holyoke College, 7-2, before falling to 13th-ranked George Washington University, 8-1 and 20th-ranked Colby, 7-2.
Both squads were given a huge boost this semester as world-traveling teammates returned to strengthen each ladder. Juniors Annie Ferreira and Abigail Smith rejoined the women’s team with stories from Amsterdam and Cape Town, while Kamisher wowed his teammates with his knowledge of Aussie slang after experiencing Sydney in the spring. The men also benefitted mightily from the return of their stud number-one, Guy Davidson ’16, from an injury that kept him out of pre-Christmas match play.
“I honestly didn’t know what to expect from myself coming back from abroad, but not having any expectations has made the transition easier than I expected,” Ferreira said. “My game has changed a lot. Things I couldn’t do before I can do now, and vice versa. So it’s just been a process of learning how to adapt to a different level of skill sets.
“Kamisher adds the depth to our lineup that we were lacking in our first few matches while he was abroad,” said Roach of his team’s very own revenant. “With such good hands, he sure knows how to put the ball away.”
Last weekend, the teams played host to Bowdoin, Hobart College, and Hamilton. Having already played William Smith, The Colleges of the Seneca’s women’s school, the Wesleyan women only faced the Polar Bears and the Continentals, while the men matched up against all three.
In Friday’s match versus Bowdoin, the women fell 6-3, but should be proud of their efforts. Ellen Paik ’16 pushed her opponents to five games but came up just short at the nine spot, losing 12-10 in the fifth set. Ferreira and Ali Imperiale ’19 both swept their opponents at numbers six and seven, and Samy put on her weekly show at the top spot, winning 11-4, 11-0, 11-3. The men eked out a 5-4 victory versus the Polar Bears, with Chris Hart ’17 sealing the victory at the three spot in an epic five-game battle. Guy Davidson ’16 won at the top spot, Yahya Ladiwala ’19 sealed a four-game victory, and Kamisher and Roach rounded out the team win with success at the fourth and sixth spots, respectively.
On Saturday, the men took on Hobart in the morning match, and won 6-3. Success at the top and bottom of the ladder was enough to ensure victory, as the Cardinals’ number-one through number-four, number-eight and number-nine all emerged victorious, while the boys from Upstate took victory at fifth through seventh.
In one of the more exciting matches of the day, Davidson squared up against Hobart’s number-one, Josh Oakley, a first-year from New Zealand. In the first game, Oakley displayed flashes of brilliance and snuck an 11-9 victory. Undeterred, Davidson kept on the attack ran his opponent out of gas. The Cardinal had Oakley scampering up and down and back and forth across the court, and the young Kiwi just couldn’t catch his breath. The pressure proved too much for him, although he still produced one or two magical nicks. Davidson took the next three games to win the match, displaying an incredibly combination of fitness and natural talent. Ladiwala also put on quite a show, coming back from a 2-1 hole to win in five games.
In the afternoon, sailing was slightly smoother for the men versus NESCAC foe Hamilton. They took a 7-2 victory, winning everywhere except at fourth and ninth. Ladiwala, Kamisher, and Davidson rounded out perfect weekends with straight-game victories, which is how all of the Cardinals’ wins came, barring Roach’s, which required a fourth.
“It was great to get two NESCAC wins as we look ahead to Little Three’s this Sunday,” Roach said.
The women played host to Hamilton on Saturday afternoon as well, falling 8-1. Bridget Doherty ’16 battled it out with her counterpart at the three spot. She took a racket to the face in the third game but rose quickly to continue fighting. Ultimately, though, she fell short in a tight but ultra-competitive three-gamer. But such a fighting spirit ran through the Cards even in the loss and bodes well for the team’s future.
Samy’s victorious match was another example of her superior skills at Wesleyan’s top spot. She swept her opponent in nearly the most dominant way imaginable, 11-0, 11-1, 11-1.
“Here’s the secret,” I overheard the Hamilton coach whisper to Samy’s opponent, Rachel Newman, after she failed to record a point in the first game. “There is no secret.” Others scrambled to pull together some coaching advice, but Newman, like many of Samy’s opponents, appeared to have already accepted her fate.
Smith was very positive about her team’s overall performance.
“We played two tough teams, but they are not out of reach for us,” she said. “Our new players to the team are working extremely hard and are proving to be very useful. The energy and competitive spirit we have on the team will help us turn some of our past losses into wins during big weekends like NESCACS and Nationals. We had a ton of close matches this weekend that I believe can go in our favor next time we see those teams.”
“This weekend was a really good test for us,” she said. “Traditionally, Bowdoin and Hamilton are teams that we have good matches against, and I would say that this weekend proved that. Overall our team as a really positive attitude and has grown so much this season that no matter if we win or lose each match is exciting because we’re all changing a lot as players. For example, I ref Ellen (Paik ’16’s) matches and watching her battle it out and fight for every point gets me psyched up for my match.”
The squads have a huge weekend coming up, as they play host to Drexel University, ninth nationally in both men’s and women’s rankings, on Saturday, and then travel to Williamstown to compete in the Little Three’s against Williams and Amherst on Sunday. As always, this competition isn’t so little. It will prove a serious litmus test for both sides, and Captain Raheem Logan ’16’s words hold true for both teams.
“We need this week to be crisp, sharp, and focused because we have a chance to make some history this weekend at the Little Threes,” Logan said.