Squash travels to San Diego for interim training

by Emily Wechsler | 1/7/15 6:17pm

Squash is a one-on-one game, a sport in which two players enclose themselves in a court with just a ball and two rackets. Dartmouth’s varsity squash players work so hard during their matches that their heart can beat upwards of 180 times each minute. The intense, fast-paced play can make it hard to even think, let alone concentrate on the game at hand. But the players execute anyway.

And while the court is a solitary place, Dartmouth’s squash players are not really alone. They are members of a team that supports, coaches and calms them.

Building that vital connection between every member was what made the squash teams’ 11-day training trip to San Diego this winter break so important.

“Having the supportive team behind you makes it so much better when you’re playing on the court,” women’s captain Helena Darling ’15 said. “You know you have basically a family behind you cheering you on. Most coaches would say squash is 80 percent mental.”

Men’s captain Mark Funk ’15 added that having a tight-knit group is critical, particularly when the coaches can’t concentrate on or work with every player at once. The athletes have a mere 90 seconds between games to get advice and catch their breath. When coaches are working with other players, teammates have to step up to help out.

The training trip consisted of two practices a day. The athletes usually played on the court in the morning, leaving the afternoons for fitness training. Team members of all ages took the trip as an opportunity to get to know each other better and to work on their craft in a new environment.

The squad also visited alumni in Los Angeles and Irvine, Calif., and played squash with the graduated athletes to further hone their skills.

During their free time, some team members took opportunities to explore the beach, swim, sea kayak or play Spikeball. The team also managed to include a trip to the San Diego Zoo in between practices.

Of course, while the team managed to schedule in some time for fun in the warmer weather, squash training was the primary focus of the trip.

Funk said that while on the court, the team worked on technique, footwork and positioning the ball.

“Eventually, as we get further down in the season, these will become second nature, muscle memory,” Funk said.

The athletes practiced hitting the “right” shot, rather than the shot that just felt good, in a series of situations, head coach Hansi Wiens said. He explained that repetition will allow the players to execute the “right” shot when their heart rates begin to elevate so high that it becomes hard for them to think straight.

Wiens also had the team take part in a couple of challenging yet fun sessions of water training during their time in San Diego.

Assuming the teams stay healthy, both Darling and Funk said they feel good about Dartmouth’s positioning for the season thus far. Now that the season is underway, the athletes will focus less on technique and more on conditioning for long matches.

Aside from the training trip, both men’s and women’s squash competed in matches over break. The no. 9 men’s squad went 1-2 in three matches, with their only win coming at home against The United States Naval Academy on Dec. 6. For the no. 10 women, both of their two matches resulted in losses.

Dartmouth’s 5-4 win over Navy had plenty of excitement as several of the best of five games matches demanded for a fourth or fifth game. The five Dartmouth wins came from Funk, Brian Giegerich ’18, Kyle Martino ’16, James Fisch ’16 and Glen Brickman ’17.

Harvard bested the Dartmouth men on Dec. 2, 7-2 with two wins coming from Brickman and Harvey. Finally, No. 3 Trinity shutout the men’s team 9-0 on Dec. 7.

On the women’s side, Dartmouth was handed another shutout by no. 1 Harvard who bested the Big Green 9-0 on Dec.2. No. 2 Trinity handed Dartmouth a 7-2 loss on their home court on Dec. 7. , with Rebecca Brownell ’18 and Carloline Canning ’18 picking up both wins for the Big Green.

Coming up next for the green and white, both men’s and women’s squash will head south this Friday to face Drexel University at 3 p.m. Both teams will then travel to the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University Saturday and Sunday, respectively.