Ah, NESCACs! It’s always an exciting weekend for Wesleyan Squash. Usually, it means they get to stay in a hotel, unless the tournament happens to be at Wesleyan, in which case they get to sleep in the Nics, or Hi Rise, or on Fountain, or anywhere, because no matter how magical they seem out there on court, they are living, breathing Wesleyan students, just like us. This year, it was at Amherst, only an hour’s drive North on I-91. As seniors count down the days until they finally burn the sweatbands and bury their rackets, first-years bristle with precocity and vigor at this hallmark tournament, the last major event before Nationals.
For both the women and the men, the weekend promised a chance to meet opposition with which they were extensively familiar. On Friday, the women faced Colby, with whom they had split a pair of bouts earlier in the season. Unfortunately, the rubber match did not favor the Cards, who fell 7-2. Josie Russ ’20 came back from a daunting two-game deficit at the six spot to secure an impressive five-game victory, while Laila Samy ’18 earned another routine three-game victory. Sarah Clothier ’19 displayed flashes of potential against Colby, which impressed captain Annie Ferreira ’17.
“Sarah played a great match against Colby on Friday, playing smart squash and never giving up on any individual point or the match as a whole,” said Ferreira. “She’s done a great job adjusting to a new team and we’re really excited to have her with us.”
On Saturday, the women took down Hamilton 5-4, with victories from Samy, Russ, Tatum Leclair ’18, and Ale Lampietti ’19. Ali Imperiale ’19 also found herself with her back against the wall, trading blows with her opponent that led up to an epic fifth game, which Imperiale eked out 14-12.
Their match against Conn was a smooth 9-0 victory, which helped the women earn their seed in the tournament (9th). In two weeks, the women will travel to Princeton, NJ to participate in Nationals, which will be the final competition of the season.
“I’m excited heading into Nationals,” said Imperiale. “We finished off NESCACs strong by beating Hamilton and Conn. Coming out of the weekend, we know exactly what to work on and we can’t wait to see our hard work pay off.”
Hard work paid off in spades for the men’s team, who gutted out two solid victories over the course of four matches to secure seventh in the NESCAC, one above its initial seeding.
The Cards blitzed an upstart Tufts outfit on Friday, winning 7-2. Victories came from seniors Chris Hart, David Sneed, and Zachary Roach, and Grant Lounsbury, sophomores Yahya Ladiwala and Josh Lane, and first-year Will Bienstock. It was their second win of the season against the boys from Medford.
Saturday morning, the squad faced of against Trinity, the legendary program that has revolutionized college squash over the past few decades. The match was a foregone conclusion, given Trinity’s cosmic talents. A 9-0 loss never feels good, but Sneed can be proud to say that he nearly beat his opponent in one game (he lost 15-13 in the third).
Next up was Colby, to whom the Cards had twice fallen already this season in two hotly contested affairs. The boys fell 6-3 with wins from Hart, Sneed, and Roach at the top of the ladder. That trio (as well as Alex Kamisher ’17 at number four) have been the bedrock of all things good for the men this season. Unfortunately, three victories at the top were not enough to edge the overall match in Wesleyan’s favor.
“It was disappointing to lose the Colby match because we know we can beat them and came up a little short,” said Hart. “My match specifically was a result I’m very proud of. I’ve lost two times to their number one this year and I’ve felt like I really needed a win to hang my hat on this year from the one spot. I’ve sort of been beating the people I’m close with and losing to the people who are seen as better than me so winning this match was a really good marker for improvement throughout the year and also a win that I can point to for a successful individual season.”
After the disappointment against Colby, the men were not to be denied against a Bowdoin contingent hampered by injuries. A blissful 9-0 win flipped the script on the weekend for the Cards, who came up short against the Polar Bears earlier this season. Redemption has rarely looked so sweet, and everything came together to send the Cards back down south to Connecticut with smiles from ear to ear.
A seventh place finish meant the Cards leap-frogged the Polar Bears in the NESCAC seeding.
“What stuck out to me this weekend was that we were the only team in the tournament to upset their seeding,” said Sneed. “We’ve had some really close matches this year against teams around us like Bowdoin and Colby, but haven’t pulled out a result. This time around we beat Bowdoin 9-0, and improved upon our past results against Colby. I think we’re set to turn some heads at Nationals in two weeks.”
“I am feeling very confident in our team after this weekend,” added Kamisher. “Overall, everyone down the ladder played the best they had all year. If this level of play keeps up I think we will have a great Nationals in two weeks.”