Squash: After thrilling 2011-12 season, new teams return to court
For the men’s squash team, the 2011-12 season will be a tough one to beat. After finishing with a national championship upset over Trinity and its 13-year winning streak, Princeton starts its season at the top. The Tigers are not resting on their laurels but rather are working hard to repeat those successes this year. Princeton has been working to improve on its weaknesses and maintain its strengths.
“Every year is a whole new year,” head coach Bob Callahan ’77 said. “We hope to take some of what we learned to use this past year and hope we can improve as far as individual players and as a team to compete for the Ivy League and national championships.”
The team also lost some crucial members of their lineup to graduation, including No. 2 Chris Callis, No. 4 Kelly Shannon, No. 6 Clay Blackiston, and No. 9 David Pena. Luckily for the Tigers, senior captain Todd Harrity will return to the No. 1 spot, a place he’s held in the lineup for his entire Princeton career. A strong group of sophomores will move up to fill some of the spots left open by seniors, and freshmen will also compete for starter spots.
Sophomore Tyler Osborne will assume the No. 2 spot, while sophomore Samuel Kang will move up from the No. 5 spot to play at No. 3. Junior Dylan Ward will move up from No. 7 to the No. 4 spot. The improvement of the returning players, as well as the new energy of the freshman class, will help make the Tigers competitive this season. While the lineup will be filled out, the loss of the seniors is obviously a tough one because of their leadership roles on the court.
Princeton has spent its preseason working on its general fitness and matchplay, so that the players would be prepared for their first official practices. These efforts are all part of the process of reaching their ultimate goal of repeating the success of last season.
“Each year is a new season with a new group of players and new challenges,” Harrity said. “Last year everything fell into place for us and it was amazing! But winning this year means everything to us and it’s going to be very competitive.”
The women’s team finished up last season with a fourth place finish in the national tournament. The team’s goals for the season are to improve individual play by working together and pushing one another at practice.
They go into the 2012-13 season having lost only one senior, No. 4 Katie Giovinazzo, from their starting nine. The women’s team has a lot of freshman talent.
“[Freshman] Rachel Leizman is looking to fill a spot in the top half of the lineup,” head coach Gail Ramsay said about her freshmen. “Tara Harrington is doing a wonderful job of working her way up the line up. [Isabella] Bersani and [Libbie] Maine are looking very competitive, and I think they too will contribute to the varsity starters in the near future if they continue to work hard and develop.”
The women’s squash team just returned from a foreign tour to South Africa and has been spending its preseason in productive captain’s practices as well as intense practice since the opening day of its season. As they begin their season, the team is confident in its prospects for this year.
“We just got back from the Ivy scrimmage,” Ramsay said. “We felt competitive and were encouraged to continue to train as hard as possible in preparation for the heart of our season, which hits after exams.”
Both the men’s and women’s squash teams will face Franklin & Marshall in their first matches of the season this Saturday at Jadwin Squash Courts. In last year’s matchup, the men’s team won 7-2, while the women’s team swept the Diplomats in all nine matches. Franklin & Marshall’s women’s team has lost its No. 1 Morgan Smith, but the Diplomats historically have not posed much of a threat to the Tigers.
The men’s team at F&M is stronger and more competitive, with its First Team All-American No. 1 Guilherme de Melo leading eight out of nine returning starters in what will be a challenging opening weekend for Princeton.