Women’s Squash Takes Down Amherst, Finishes 15th at Nationals

Beatrijs Kuijpers ’19 won two of her three matches in the first spot in the ladder at CSA Team Nationals, defeating her opponents from University of Virginia and Amherst.

Middlebury Athletic Communications

Beatrijs Kuijpers ’19 won two of her three matches in the first spot in the ladder at CSA Team Nationals, defeating her opponents from University of Virginia and Amherst.

By EMILY BIAN

Following a third-place finish at Nescacs earlier this month, where the Panthers pulled off a 5–4 win over Amherst, the 15th-ranked women’s squash team headed to the CSA Team Championships in Boston last weekend to compete in the B draw for the Kurtz Cup. They finished their season ranked 15th, after losing their first two matches of the weekend then defeating Amherst in a rematch on Sunday, Feb. 18.

Middlebury entered the weekend as a huge underdog — the Panthers were the 15th-ranked team in a draw that features the ninth through 16th-ranked teams. While they were the second lowest ranked team in the draw, their morale was high.

They began by facing No. 10 Dartmouth, the same team the Panthers lost to 8–1 earlier this season on their home courts.

Virginia Schaus ’21, who performed consistently well throughout her first season with the Panthers, claimed Middlebury’s only point against Dartmouth in a four-set triumph (11–3, 9–11, 11–7, 11–7) against Julia Potter at No. 6.

While the Panthers only tallied one point against the Big Green, several matches stood out as near misses for Middlebury. One of those was Alexa Comai ’19’s matchup in the No. 3 slot.

Comai battled into the fifth set against Dartmouth’s Sandra Reiss despite dropping the first game of the match 11–5. Comai quickly recovered though, and manufactured some momentum as she fought back to win the next two games 11–3 and 11–4, which made the next two games potential close-out sets. Unfortunately, after a hard fought fourth set, Comai ’19 fell 11–9, she could not get her energy back up for the fifth game and lost 11–3.

In the middle of the ladder, Anne Glassie ’20 and Natalie Madden ’21 missed the chance to pull off victories in their matches that went all the way to a fifth set. At No. 4, Glassie ’20 dropped the first two games against opponent Brynn Bank, 11–3, 11–7. But the tide changed when she fought tooth and nail for the third set, securing it with a score 13–11, before falling in the fourth set 11–7.

Madden ’21, another outstanding Panther rookie lost at No. 5 against Janel Gaube in a closely contested four set match 11–3, 11–7, 8–11, 11–4.

After falling to Dartmouth, Middlebury went on to play No. 14 Virginia in the consolation semifinal, where the Panthers fell to Virginia for the second time this season. Although, by only falling 7–2 this time around, the Panthers improved on their 8–1 showing earlier in the season.

In last weekend’s meeting with Virginia, the Panthers managed to get off to a good start when Natasha Lowitt ’20 tied the overall match 1–1 by winning a four set nailbiter in the No. 9 slot  (11–7, 4–11, 13–11, 14–12). Unfortunately the winning streak didn’t last as Virginia won the next six matches, leading with a score of 7–1.

Mira Chugh ’20 put up a good fight in a tough five set match at No. 8 against Isabelle Ezratty. Chugh led the match with a two-game lead, 14–12, 11–5 but was then overtaken the next three sets 11–4, 11–8, 11–9.

At the top of the ladder, Beatrijs Kuijpers ’19’s match was the last on the day for the Panthers. Kuijpers ended the match on her terms as she defeated Carey Danforth in a well played four set match (11–9, 7–11, 11–4, 11–6). Their 7–2 loss to Virginia sent the Panthers onto the 15th-versus-16th-place game against Amherst. The matchup with the Mammoths offered a chance for the Panthers to finish in the top 15 in the year-end rankings for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

The team’s head coach, Mark Lewis, talked about how proud the team should be given the level of competition it faced in the first two rounds at nationals.

“We played really strong teams in the first two rounds (Dartmouth and UVA), played pretty well and learned that the team that applies pressure, sustains that pressure and relieves pressure tends to win.” But  even after the two losses, the Panthers looked forward to apply pressure against Amherst to claim the 15th rank.

Rounding out the three day tournament with a 6–3 victory over Amherst in the 15/16 match, the Panthers finished their season with a 12–10 record.

Lowitt got things started on the right foot for the Panthers in the No. 9 slot, as she won a four-game match over Ashira Mawji. Undeterred from losing the first set 11–8, Lowitt powered through full force, claiming the next three sets, 11–5, 11–7, 11–7.

The Mammoths went on to two consecutive victories at No. 3 and No. 6 to gain a momentary 2–1 advantage. Comai put up a fight with a five set match in the No. 3 slot, narrowly falling by a score of 9–11, 11–6, 11–8, 5–11, 11–8. The loss at No. 6 by Schaus was also closely contested (6–11, 11–3, 11–8, 13–11).

Chugh’s result in the No. 8 slot broke the Mammoths winning streak. She racked up a four-game triumph over Pierson Klein. After losing the first set relatively quickly 11–3, Chugh made a huge comeback and won the next very close three sets, 11–9, 11–8, 11–8.

After that, the tide changed for the Panthers as they went on to win the next three consecutive matches. The wins came from Madden at No. 5, Emily Beinkampen ’21 in the No. 7 slot, and Lucy Bostwick ’18 at the No. 2.

Madden slipped past Madison Chen with a close four setter with a score of 11–9, 8–11, 11–8, 11–9. Beinkampen locked down her match in only three games (11–7, 11–7, 12–10), rounding out her first season on a positive note. Bostwick clinched a deciding five set match against Haley McAtee with a close score of 9–11, 11–5, 11–3, 8–11, 11–1.

The Mammoths gave a final push, breaking the Panthers’ winning streak with a three-game win at No. 4 (11–5, 11–6, 11–8), making the score 5–3. Kuijpers closed out the match, and tournament, with a three-game triumph against Kimberly Krayacich (11–6, 12–10, 11–9) in the top spot on the ladder.

Comai reflected on the tournament and the season in general.

“This season obviously had its high and low points,” Comai said. “I felt that overall the team really came together both on and off the courts.”

Coach Lewis agreed with Comai’s sentiments.

“In the match against Amherst we put in a really strong performance,” Lewis said. “Overall the season was good. Every team member had some wins and in their losses hopefully walked away with some valuable takeaways.”

Some great contributing factors to a solid season for the Panthers boiled down to great leadership and a strong support system, even from the underclassmen.

“We had a lot of great freshman who had an enormously positive contribution to the team and I am excited to see how they can help us to be even better next year,” said Comai.

“This year we had amazing leadership under our captain, Lucy Bostwick, as well as the rest of the senior class. We feel super grateful for everything that they have done for us and will miss them dearly.”

The women’s squash team is officially finished with their season, except for a select few competing in the Individual CSA championship in Washington D.C., March 2–4. After a grueling and competitive season, most of the Panthers are ready for a break, but also looking forward to continue training hard, getting prepared for the next season.

“I think after a little break we want to try to do a lot of match play and captains practices this spring to keep our skill level and fitness high,” Comai said on behalf of her Panther teammates who are already looking forward to the team’s potential going forward. “We also want to try to incorporate a lot of mental fitness training this spring and fall in order to allow each of us to be in our best competitive headspace come season.”

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Women’s Squash Takes Down Amherst, Finishes 15th at Nationals