While the weather begins to cool down, the squash courts at Jadwin Gymnasium are heating up as Princeton prepares to officially start its 2014-15 season with a home opener against Franklin & Marshall College.
Last year, the men’s team finished with an 8-7 overall record as the women put together an 11-5 mark. However, seniors on both sides anticipate significant development and strong performances during this upcoming season. Two weeks ago, the women’s team came second to Penn after beating Harvard in the Ivy Scrimmages semifinals hosted by Yale, an impressive feat that senior women’s captain Alex Lunt identifies as “the preview to a long and competitive season.” For Lunt, the big matches the team is focusing on training for will come after the new year, when the Tigers go up against top competitors from Harvard, Penn, Trinity College and Yale.
Senior men’s captain Tyler Osborne looks forward to starting his senior season, which he and senior co-captains David Hoffman and Samuel Kang hope will lead all the way to nationals. “This year there are so many strong teams, and so each of our matches is going to be tough, but we are looking to get back in the top pool for nationals this year, and our journey to that goal starts this weekend,” Osborne said. Senior Nicole Bunyan who identifies as “a player who absolutely thrives on the crowd” is excited for the many home matches coming up this season and the possibility of a strong fan section for tournaments. Other seniors on this year’s men’s and women’s teams include Taylor Tutrone, Hallie Dewey and Hadley Chu.
As both Osborne and Lunt note, this season will certainly not be an easy one. “The quality and depth in college squash has increased dramatically ever since I got here my freshman year,” said Osborne. “The college squash scene continues to strengthen with every new class of recruits,” Lunt added.
To prep for the challenging season ahead, both teams have spent the last few preseason months focusing on drills that sharpen technical skills. While technical work is critical to the sport, the teams have also spent a great deal of time developing their physical and mental fitness, a practice that will only intensify with the start of the season. “Practicing certain shots over and over is great, but ultimately, you’ve got to be able to play the game in its entirety, which means being creative and having both the physical and mental stamina to get through a match,” Bunyan noted.
Osborne claims that the men’s team has just finished the best preseason training he has ever experienced as a Tiger. He points to tough workouts on the bike, court and track, as the keys to increasing their physical fitness levels and prepare for future matches. In order to develop that mental stamina, Bunyan says that the women’s team has incorporated mental training and visualization into their practice routines. This year, they also brought in a sports psychologist to help the players identify the individual strengths each brings to the team.
In addition to preparing for the season on an individual level, the teams have also been adjusting to the absence of last year’s graduating class and welcoming eight new members from the Class of 2018. “It is always interesting to see what the new freshman class will bring and how they will fill the absence that is felt with the graduation of our senior class. They certainly did not disappoint. We have four new wonderful teammates who all bring incredible strengths to the already great team. They quickly caught on to the hardworking yet humble culture that is so important to the success of our team,” Lunt said.
Even though squash is an individual sport, team dynamic is critical to a successful season. One way that women’s squash feels unified as a team striving toward a common goal is through mottos that serve as pre-match cheers and profound reminders of team values. One of the men’s central dogmas this year is “Respect.” Osborne explains its significance as a command to “respect each other, respect our opponents, and respect this school and the opportunity we have been given.”
“Glory never dies” remains the long-standing motto of the women’s team.
“I’ll remember those three words for the rest of my life,” said Bunyan, “and I’ll probably get chills up my spine every time I hear them. It’s such a powerful, simple statement, and always reminds us that we are part of such a great program with an incredible history.”