After losing six seniors upon their graduation last year, women’s squash has merged with the men’s team to fulfill the College Squash Association (CSA) nine-person roster requirement. The now co-ed team has steadily rebuilt, recruited players and, despite a series of injuries, hopes to reach Nationals by the end of the season.
Before the Sept. 28 season kick-off, Head Coach Jane Parker was recruiting Vassar students who might be interested in playing collegiate squash. “The pre-winter break objective was to build a squad of women in P.E. classes by offering more introductory clinics, an intramural squash ladder and a Brewer House Cup Squash Team Tournament,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “Five Introductory clinics were staged through August and September and squash was introduced to seventy novices. A number of the newcomers enrolled on fall squash classes, attended intramurals and expressed interest in joining the team.”
By the time the season began, the team consisted of 13 men and five women. Seniors Ricardo Espinosa and Kiet Phun, along with junior Alexandra Bowditch, were named captains. “This is a relatively new team that has grown a lot over the course of the year,” wrote co-captain Espinosa in an emailed statement. “We were a bit unlucky in that two of our top players tore their ACL’s at the beginning of the season, so the results have not been as positive. However, it is amazing to see how high spirits are, and how motivated everyone is.”
The injured players include sophomores Timothy Veit and Daniel Doctor, along with junior Devina Vaid and freshman Vincent Mencotti. “The season has been really up and down so far,” wrote Veit, who had lower-back surgery in October. “It was hard to lose three male seniors and six female seniors coming into this season but everyone on the team has handled it well.” He continued, “We really have focused as a team on not only on learning from the matches we play but on winning. Even though this season is still not as solid as we expected we have such an incredible foundation for next year.” Mencotti agreed, and wrote that, “We’ve had to adapt and switch the roster up, but everyone has really stepped up to the challenge and played fabulously.”
According to Head Coach Parker, the team’s competitive edge was not dulled by losing so many players: “The team atmosphere was one of enjoyment, whilst giving 100% effort in training and going the extra mile to iron out any technical deficits and thus improving the quality of their play,” she wrote. “There was no question that this effort was paying off. Ladder positions were contested on a weekly basis allowing for the line-up to change according to the current form of each player.”
During the inaugural Hudson Valley Individual Tournament, Vassar competed at home turf against Bard College, Fordham University and Ithaca College. In the A division, Mencotti took the title but came down with his injury, and freshman Carly Scher took the B division title. According to freshman Sam Hammer, his favorite moment of the season was “watching Vince Mencotti beat the Fordham number one at our season opening tournament while on a torn ACL.” Veit expressed the same: “What makes it incredible is that a) it was his first collegiate match ever and b) he won the last three points of his final game with a torn ACL. [I] can’t wait to see what he does when he’s healthy!”
In their first team match of the season at Haverford, PA, the Brewers went down 9-0 after losing Mencotti and co-captain Bowditch. “Despite going down 9-0 in both matches, there were bursts of potential shown in many games,” explained Parker. “Highlights against Lehigh came from Phun, Doctor and [senior Alan] Darer, who snagged a game apiece before going down 3/1. Likewise against Haverford both Bertram and Hammer stole one game each.”
During the Liberty League Championship, which took place on November 23-24, the team traveled to Canton, NY to compete against Bard College, Hobart College, No. 5 University of Rochester and No. 6 St. Lawrence University . Over No. 54 Bard, the team came out victorious with a score of 8-1, and Vassar advanced to a No. 53 rank. In a match vs. Wesleyan, the team dropped all nine matches, but played well vs. Ithaca.
Against Ithaca, “VC earned all five points in the five through nine spots, falling in just two games in those spots,” wrote Parker. “No. 2 player and captain Kiet Phun picked up a straight set victory with an 11-7, 11-6, 11-6 score line to start the scoring for Vassar. No. 5 player David Garfinkel earned a hard-fought five-set victory, rallying from down a set at 2-1 to earn an 11-8, 9-11, 5-11, 11-8, 17-15 marathon victory.” She continued, “Senior Alan Darer breezed by his opponent in the No. 6 slot, winning in straight sets with scores of 11-5, 11-0, and 11-1.Freshman Carly Scher won a spirited match at No. 7, taking an 11-8, 11-6, 18-6 victory, while fellow freshman Isabelle Bertram posted an 11-9, 11-3, 11-8 victory as well.” The team ended this half of the season with a 2-6 record overall.
By January 19, the post-winter break season commenced with the addition of five new players, and two returning players from abroad. The team has since won matches vs. Siena College and Gettysburg College, but has dropped matches against Tufts, Haverford, Northeastern, Fordham and NYU. Nonetheless, the team is looking forward to competing in the CSA Team Championships next weekend. “We expect to have some even matches ahead of us,” wrote Espinosa. “Our goal is to win the trophy in our division.” According to Veit, “I want us to win our tournament this weekend and even our division at Nationals. We have practiced so hard and have been coached so well that all we need to do is stay focused and play our game.” The team will travel to Boston, MA on February 14, 15 and 16 to compete.