Sophomore Nicole Bunyan from Victoria, British Columbia, has found early success in her Princeton squash career. After going 14-2 as a freshman last season and earning second-team All-America honors, Bunyan has been playing No. 2 for the Tigers this season. Princeton (3-0) begins its Ivy League schedule in January. The ‘Prince’ sat down with Bunyan to discuss soccer, the first day of school and Canada.
Q: When did you know squash was going to be a big part of your life?
A: I was 10 years old, and it was Halloween. My friend Lindsay and I showed up to our joint [squash] lesson in our costumes — I was some sort of sorcerer/witch, and she was a vampire. All we did for the entire 45 minutes was run around the court in hooded cloaks like maniacs swinging our rackets wildly at balls that we could barely see. I don’t know how my coach put up with that, but in retrospect I am really glad he did. He always encouraged us to have fun on court and still does.
Q: What do you like about where you grew up?
A: We [Canadians] have our own Thanksgiving. It happens at the beginning of October, and we eat the same kind of food as you do. I also love Tim Horton’s, which is our better version of Dunkin Donuts. And yes, it is named after a hockey player.
Q: What is the best part about being an athlete at Princeton?
A: I think just saying that you’re an athlete, everyone coming to watch your games. When you go to the dining hall and everyone asks you about your games, and your friends come to watch your matches, it feels really good.
Q: What is the worst part about being an athlete at Princeton?
A: Well, it’s really busy, but that’s even a good thing because it forces you to go to Dillon and work out.
Q: What was your “welcome-to-Princeton” moment?
A: It was not a good “welcome-to-Princeton” moment. My parents didn’t really think of moving me in, so they just kind of left. [My roommate] Rose [Lapp ’15] was unpacking with all her family and friends, and I was there by myself. I didn’t know where to put anything, and it was really hot. I took my phone and went and stood at Cannon Green and cried on the phone to my boyfriend.
Q: What was the weirdest thing to happen to you in a match?
A: Last year, I played this girl from Yale who would throw her racket and scream this word, and no one knew what she was saying. She was so annoying because she had this really big swing, and it looked like she was going to take your head off.
Q: If not squash, what sport?
A: I would play soccer. That was my main sport until I decided to take squash seriously. One I would really like to be good at is the triathlon, though.
Q: Who is your quirkiest teammate?
A: Two of our freshmen are pretty quirky: Rachel Leizman and Isabella Bersani. Rachel just says really funny things. She just met a guy one day and went on a swing-dancing date with him that night. And Isabella, she’s also just crazy.
Q: Do you have a weird team ritual?
A: The boys’ team makes so much fun of us for this, but after intros, we go in a team huddle, and everybody says an inspirational word, like “fight,” “power,” “determination.” We did this with the guy’s team, and they just started mocking us. If I were a guy, I would make fun of it too.
Q: What is the highlight of your sports career?
A: I came in second at Canadian Juniors, which was pretty cool. I also lost to a Yale player [Rhetta Nadas] at home, and then I beat her the next time I played her, which was very satisfying. That was probably the highlight of the last year.
Q: What could be found on your pump-up playlist?
A: You can find the entire Hairspray musical soundtrack and “Spaceman,” by The Killers.
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: I’ve never really just had one role model. It would kind of change as I grew up. One person I’ve always admired is Christine Sinclair. She’s from close to my hometown and is the captain on the Canadian national soccer team. I remember watching her play about 10 years ago for the national junior team, and she was already dominating the soccer scene. Not only is she a leading goal scorer but she also is a great captain and really leads by example. She also seems very down-to-earth.
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