Squash squads prepare for season-opening Ivy Scrimmages

by Henry Arndt | 11/7/12 11:00pm

The Dartmouth men's and women's squash teams will take the court for the first time this year at the annual Ivy Scrimmages at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., on Saturday and Sunday. The men finished the 20112012 season ranked seventh in the nation, while the women finished last year ranked eighth.

The Ivy Scrimmages will also mark the first competition for new assistant coach Theo Woodward, who will work with both teams. Woodward comes from London, where he worked with the British Squash Association and spent time competing on the professional squash circuit.

"[Woodward is] what we call a Level 3 coach, which is the highest coaching designation in squash, so it will be nice to have new ideas coming in with him," co-captain Robbie Maycock '13 said.

All eight Ivy League schools compete in the scrimmages, which will not count toward regular season records. The eight teams are placed into a bracket, and each team will play three matches, two on Saturday and one on Sunday.

"Because [the scrimmages] don't count, it's a great opportunity to see where you're at, what you need to work on and what the other teams are bringing to the table this season," co-captain Chris Hanson '13 said.

The Big Green men finished last year fifth in the Ivy League with a 10-8 (3-4 Ivy) final record.

"I don't think we play anyone [ranked] outside of the top 20," Hanson said. "We stick to a small schedule and focus on the really hard matches. I think it's better because we have to worry less about travel and we can get really properly prepared and hyped up for our one or two matches a week."

A disappointing loss to Yale late last season kept the Big Green from achieving a higher ranking.

"We were a tiny bit disappointed about finishing seventh again [at the national championship] because we were extremely close to beating Yale last year," Hanson said. "We lost, 6-3, and two of the matches went to five games."

The men have made alterations to their practice routines in an attempt to reach new heights this year.

"We're kind of approaching training in a slightly different way," Maycock said. "It's very match-specific and highly competitive this year. The winners and losers from each court move up and down so at all times you have to be 100 percent focused and competitive."

Hanson and Maycock said that the team also wants to improve its mental game this year.

"I think we can look at some of our close losses from last season and point to either a breakdown in fitness or a breakdown in emotions, so that's our goal as of now to work on our mental toughness," Hanson said.

The Big Green women finished sixth in the Ivy League last year with a 6-9 (2-5 Ivy) record. Despite having an overall losing record, Dartmouth finished the season ranked eighth in the nation.

"We came in eighth last season, which is what we expected to come in," co-captain Sarah Loucks '13 said. "We had a couple of hard matches at the final tournament, and it's always hard because coming in eighth means we lose our last three matches of the season [at nationals]. We like being in the top eight, but we definitely want to push higher and harder and get in the seventh or sixth spot by winning one of those last matches."

Since squash is primarily a winter sport, the women must spend the spring, summer and fall in between seasons preparing for next year.

In order to work on their mental game, the Big Green women participated in a program called Provelop, which other teams on campus have also used to work on their mental stamina. On its website, Provelop states that it "was developed by professional athletes in conjunction with leaders in the field of performance psychology."

Katherine Nimmo '14 said the program included exercises where the women stand on one foot, close their eyes, count to 30 and then open their eyes when they think it's been 30 seconds. In another concentration exercise, the women are handed a page with 90 numbers arranged randomly in a box, and they must attempt to cross as many of them off sequentially as they can in 90 seconds.

"When it comes to the close times in the game, you can suppress negative energy and focus on positive thoughts by doing something like bouncing the ball or touching a wall," Nimmo said. "If you attach a positive, green-light' emotion with a certain physical motion you do, it's supposed to calm you down."

This season, the women will look to improve their overall ranking by exacting revenge on close rivals.

"Our biggest competition we're looking at this year is Stanford [University] and Cornell [University], and we'd really love to take them down," Nimmo said. "For the upperclassmen in particular, it's getting especially personal with Cornell because we've had such tight matches with them."

The Big Green men are seeded fifth this weekend and will square off against Yale in the first round, while the women will play Princeton University in the first round.

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