This year, the Vassar College men and women’s squash teams are in new territory. The squads were merged for the 2013-14 campaign due to both graduation of seniors and study abroad commitments. That forced the returning women, as well as newcomers, to compete for playing time alongside the men. For the women, many players return from last year after gaining experience in late season scrimmages. Despite the co-ed designation, many women were able to break into the lineup last year. Three key players for the women include top returners senior captain Karina Primelles along with sophomores Carly Scher and Isabelle Bertram.
Scher described her excitement at the team’s re-split. “I am really happy about the teams being split again,” she wrote in an emailed statement. “I think it will be a really beneficial and great experience for everyone. Last year, being on the men’s team was definitely a great experience and helped me to improve, but I think I speak for all the girls when I say that we always wanted a team to ourselves. The men and women practice together all week, so we are still playing with the men and we get to bond with them which is awesome, but we also have our own matches and get to play women’s teams now which is really exciting; surprisingly enough, men and women play very different games of squash, so it will be good for us to be able to focus on playing women’s squash.” She went on to add, “I think the women on the team will be more comfortable focusing on playing women rather than men, so I’m really excited about it.”
Primelles played at the No.6 spot last year for the co-ed team during the spring semester, as she was abroad in the fall. She went 1-2 overall, but the year before, in her sophomore season, she chalked up the second-most wins on the team with eight. Bertram competed with the men for playing time last season and won four matches and going 3-0 in exhibition matches. Scher played 20 games last season at the No. 7, 8 and 9 as well as the No. 2 and 3 spots. She was 6-14 overall and finished with the highest number of season wins on the team.
Along with these returners, freshmen Hannah Nice and Cherrylann Mucciolo are strong recruits. Nice, in particular, is ranked by U.S. Squash as a Junior U-19 player. Seniors Ellie Opdahl and Roxanne Ringer both played with the team second semester last year. Ringer went 1-2 at the No.7 spot while Opdahl did not get any match time. To help bolster numbers, junior Stephanie Zhu and freshman Emma Glickman joined the squad and are working to gain experience quickly.
Scher seems optimistic based on the team’s pre-season play. “Pre-season this year has been going so incredibly well, and I am feeling really good about the upcoming season. Every single one of us has been really dedicated to getting into shape and getting ready for the season. We’ve had some amazing practices so far. Personally, I think this pre-season is going so much better than last year’s and that I am already more prepared for the season. I’m in much better shape and have already improved my skills a lot. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season and can not wait to continue to improve.”
She also has been impressed with Nice’s play so far.. She added, “Especially as a freshman new to the women’s team, Hannah Nice has proven herself to be an extremely strong player and she is really going to make our team good. I’m excited to see what she will do this season.”
Looking at the men’s team, the men lost some key members to graduation and currently have members abroad. The team holds 11 to start the season and will welcome back more players in the spring. They are captained by seniors Ryan Kurtzman and David Garfinkel. The team also welcomed back sophomore Vincent Mencotti, who was injured in the first tournament of his freshman campaign after going 5-0 and earning a title at the Hudson Valley College Individual Tournament. Junior Timothy Veit should also be a name to watch after playing 11 games at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, going 3-8 on the year. Senior Noah Kulick finished 5-6 last year at the No. 5 spot. Sophomore Sam Hammer was 2-2 at the No. 6 spot. The lineup is also bolstered by a group of five newcomers. Mencotti agrees that pre-season has been a great experience and feels that his teammates’ returns will only help build on everything from the fall. “[Pre-season so far has been] incredibly strong. Our intensity is high and the focus level at practice is very high. Everyone is there to get better and perform. The first semester will be a little developmental as four of our starting nine are abroad and our new players will have to step up to fill the gaps until they return in the winter. But our intensity level is really unique this year. We all have goals for ourselves and the team as a whole. We all know that only our best will accomplish these goals.”
It seems that the team’s optimism has been warranted. The teams opened up play at the Hudson Valley College Individual Tournament this Saturday in Kenyon Hall. Primelles and Opdahl both were undefeated for the women, as they both went 3-0 on the day. Primelles played in the “C” Division, defeating two men and one woman but did not win the bracket due to seeding. Opdahl earned the individual title in the “E” Division after defeating two Fordham players and Zhu. Mucciolo made it to the “D” Division Finals and placed 2nd in the flight. Ringer took 5th in the “E” Division and Zhu took 3rd in the “E”. Nice was the only female in the “A” Division and went 1-2 on the afternoon, but both her losses were very close. Scher and Bertram both had a win in the “C” bracket.
For the men, junior Tim Boycott earned the title in the “D” division and was named Liberty League Performer of the Week for Men’s Squash after winning 9 of 11 sets. Mencotti finished third in the “A” Division while Veit was fourth in the “B.” Kulick finished 3rd in the “C” Bracket.
Both teams are back in action, taking on Haverford College and New York University Nov. 8 at 12 p.m. in Kenyon Hall.