Squash Finishes Strong at NESCACs

By Stephen Etna

As the majority of the student-body enjoyed some well-deserved time off last week during February break, the Middlebury squash teams were hard at work. Playing not only an extremely competitive schedule but also being arguably the College’s most well-traveled team, the squash teams spent their February breaks competing in both the NESCAC and Div. III Singles tournaments, with both the men and women turning in solid performances across the board.

In a prelude to their championship tournaments, the squash teams participated in a round robin at Yale before the NESCAC and individual tournaments. The women defeated their only Div. III opponent, Franklin & Marshall, while dropping matches to fifth-ranked Yale, 11th-ranked George Washington, and a close defeat to 10th-ranked Brown.

At the Yale meet, the men fared better, albeit against lesser ranked competition. Winning two of three matches, the men defeated number-20 Brown and George Washington, while losing a well contested match to 14th-ranked Navy.

Crucial to both teams’ rankings, the weekend of Jan. 31 saw the men and women take on their NESCAC competition for the team conference championships.

The men, seeded fifth in the conference, drew fourth-seeded Wesleyan in their opening game of the competition. Strong performances by Parker Hurst ’14 and Andrew Cadienhead ’17 buoyed the Panthers, allowing them to best Wesleyan by a score of 5-4.

The upset was not easily attained, as many of the matches went long. With multiple matches going to the fifth and decisive games, the Cardinals of Wesleyan did not make life easy for Middlebury.

The next game, against national powerhouse and top-seeded Trinity, would prove to be unfavorable to the Panthers, as the Bantams beat them soundly 9-0. Other than a strong performance from Andrew Jung ’16 the Panthers were outplayed down the line from an exceptionally strong Trinity team that would similarly shut out Williams in the final to take the NESCAC team championship.

In consolation play for third place, the Panthers took on Bates. The Bobcats had an answer for Middlebury’s usually formidable top half of the lineup, beating the Panthers’ first through fourth singles players. Despite sound wins from Wyatt French ’17, Reed Palmer ’15 and Will Hanley ’15, Middlebury would ultimately come up short and fall to Bates 6-3.

For the weekend, Middlebury finished fourth in the NESCAC, outperforming their seed, but still not the performance a talented roster such as Middlebury’s is capable of producing.

The women’s team, also seeded fifth in the tournament, opened against fourth-seeded Hamilton. The Panthers put on quite the display in their opening match, defeating the Continentals by a score of 7-2. The lineup has clearly benefited from the return of the Dewey cousins, Charlotte ’15 and Katie ’15.

The next round found them taking on Trinity, who were seeded first in the women’s bracket as well. The women fared no better than the men; Trinity, clearly the class of the NESCAC in squash, shut out Middlebury 9-0.

However, Middlebury would rebound strongly from this defeat and in the consolation game, beating Williams 5-4 to take third place in the NESCAC. With shutout victories from Charlotte Dewey and Zoe Carey ’16, as well as a well fought come from behind victory at first singles from Abby Jenkins ’14, the Panthers were able to take down the Ephs in a close matchup.

The strong play from the women continued in the inaugural Div. III Singles Invitational at Bowdoin College this past weekend. Sending Jenkins, Dewey, Carey and Saskia Pownall-Gray ’16 to the top-tiered “A” flight, the women’s delegation from Middlebury had a very strong showing.

Ranked 29th in the field of 32, Pownall-Gray scored the tournament’s biggest upset, defeating Williams’ number-one player in the second round of play, before falling in the next round. Carey and Charlotte Dewey also breezed past their competition before falling in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. The biggest splash, however, was made by Jenkins, who dominated all she played, losing only one game in match play on her way to taking the singles championship.

The men did not see that level of success from their representatives at the tournament, but Jung and Harrison Croll ’16 turned in strong performances. In the “A” flight, Jung won his first match in three straight games, before falling in the round of 16. Croll, who entered the “B” flight, played sharply, winning his first two matches handily before falling to the eventual flight champion in the semifinals.

Both the men’s and women’s teams return to action for the Team Nationals tournament. The men travel to Harvard this weekend, Feb. 13-16, for the tournament. The following weekend, Feb. 20-23, the women will compete at Princeton.

For both squads, Team Nationals will provide one final opportunity to match up with top players from around the country with the intention of improving their national ranking.

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