Hailing from Ecuador, Ricardo Espinosa is a senior at Vassar College and one of the co-captains of Vassar’s Squash team. Now in his fourth year as a player and member of the team, Espinosa plays singles and is one of the higher-ranked players on the team. He also has had the unique experience of being both an international student and an athlete on Vassar’s campus.
Espinosa did not come to Vassar with the expectation that joining would lead to being an integral member of the squash team. “When I came to Vassar, I actually did not think I was going to join the squash team. I had suffered a back injury in the previous summer, so I was unable to try out for some of the sports that had an early fall season,” Espinosa described in an emailed statement.
“I still wanted to play a competitive sport, and it was then that I met some international seniors who were members of the squash team, and convinced me to go practice with them one day. I did not really have any previous experience in squash, but knew about the sport because my dad used to play, and because I was able to see the Junior World Tournament 2010, which was held in Quito. When I played with the VC squash team members, they noticed I had a tennis background, and that I could adapt well to the new racquet skills that squash demanded,” he said. At that point he met the team’s coach who asked him to train with them.
”After that, it was all a matter of hard work and training until I made the top 9 and was able to play in my first competitive match,” he said.
Espinosa said that his freshman year about half of the team was composed of international students, whereas this year most of them are American. “Obviously, the team dynamic is different when you have a more diverse group: You can have some people speaking in their own language and hanging out with each other, or others feeling a bit isolated and not relating to the rest’s culture.”
He went on, stating, “Yet, once you step in on court, it is just you and your opponent, and it really does not matter where either of you are from but a matter of who can outplay or outlast the other. If you are willing to learn from whichever person you play with and keep in mind that you ultimately play squash because you love the sport, then you will improve. That is probably the most valuable lesson I have learnt. I have gone on court feeling really nervous, and lost a match in less than ten minutes because I was not able to handle the pressure, but I have also gone in on court trusting and enjoying my game, and won against opponents like Kincade.”
Now in his senior year, Espinosa serves as a role model to younger teammates.
Freshman squash player Carly Scher discussed her experience of having Espinosa as teammate to look up to. “As a freshman, it has been amazing having him on the team as a senior captain,” Scher explained in an emailed statement.
“I think I speak for all the freshmen when I say that we have been extremely spoiled having him this year and that we will miss him more than we could ever say next year. He is just such a good person all around, and always wants the best for the team, as well as for all of us individually. He genuinely cares about us, which is something really important in a captain and teammate. He brings such a great energy to the team and has been such a good role model for us to look up to. I think we will all really feel his absence a lot next year. I am honored to have been on a team with him.”
Scher also spoke to Espinosa’s overall quality as a captain of the co-ed squash team.
“Ricardo is an awesome captain,” Scher described. “I don’t think we could have asked for a better one. He sets such a good example for everyone on the team, and he believes so much in all of us. He always has good advice and encouraging words for any one of us at any given time. He is a great leader and is good at including everyone on the team and making them feel comfortable. He is extremely modest, when he has no reason to be, which makes him all the more likable as a captain.”
Scher continued, “He is really encouraging and truly believes in all of us, so it is easy for him to support us. His pre-game speeches are short and sweet but he says just enough to get us pumped up and ready, while also making sure not to put too much pressure on us. He always has kind words for everyone on the team, especially when we need them most. I think also just watching the way he presents and carries himself helps bring out the best in us all.”
Through his time on the Vassar team, Espinosa developed a deep love for the sport and the school team. “It is hard to answer because many people don’t even know what squash is,” Espinosa expressed.
“So if you want to know what squash looks like, search for the Amr Shabana vs. Gregory Gaultier 2012 World Series Finals in your phone, and fast-forward up to the hour and fifteenth minute. I am serious, do it now and watch a couple of points! It looks as a hard sport, but honestly, squash is so easy to learn and so fast-paced that you end up loving it. If you have little time in your hands to do physical activity, you should probably play some squash instead of going running. You will burn almost twice as many calories in the same amount of time, and you will really understand what makes squash so amazing,” Espinosa said.
He added that if any students want to join him and his team on the court, they’re usually in Kenyon between 4 and 5 p.m.
As Espinosa looks towards graduating and ending his time at Vassar College, he is forever grateful for his time on the squash team.
“I have gathered some of my best memories by playing with the squash team,” wrote Espinosa. “It is hard to describe how amazing the team environment is both on and off court, and I really think that is what allowed me to grow so much as a player in these four years. If I had to pick a single memory to highlight, it would be my win against the No. 1 from Fordham University, Kincade Webster, about two weeks ago in the Hudson Valley Tournament. I had played against him a week before the tournament, and lost in a tight match.”
Espinosa continued, “I really wanted to redeem myself in front of my home crowd and in my last competitive home match at Vassar. After pulling through a 14-12 win in the first set, I knew I could do it, and it was all going to be a matter of focus, and patience. I kept on playing my game, and in the end I was able to beat him in 4 games.”
He said his most memorable moment was when he scored the final point. He shook his opponent’s hand to the sound of his friends and teammates cheering for him.
“It is a really special memory for me because four years ago, I would never have thought that I would be able to pull off such a win against an experienced player,” said Espinosa. “Again, it just highlights how much one can grow as a player in such a supportive environment.”