After Ivy scrimmages, squash teams set sights on top eight

by Saba Nejad | 11/10/17 1:05am

Last season, the men’s and women’s squash teams each finished ninth in the nation, one spot away from the top-eight status that distinguishes the best teams in the College Squash Association. This winter, both squads have a top-eight ranking in their sights.

The women’s squash team has been on an upswing the past two seasons. It has been ranked between No. 9 and No. 11 in the country and won the Kurtz Cup, the B Division national tournament, the past two years. If the team keeps improving, it has a chance to break into the A Division and compete for the Howe Cup at the end of the season.

“We all know that if we work hard this year, breaking into the top eight is perfectly doable,” co-captain Zainab Molani ’18 said.

What’s different this year? For one thing, the team graduated two members of the Class of 2017 and added three first-years: Brynn Bank ’21, Ellie Gozigian ’21 and Sandra Reiss ’21.

“The ’21s bring a lot of energy and fun to practice,” Molani said. “They are so confident, both on and off the court, and that really comes across in how they play and their determination to win. Losing the ’17s and some of our other teammates this year was tough, but ultimately we still have a great team.”

The team played its first matches of the year at the Ivy Scrimmages this past weekend, coming into the tournament ranked seventh and finishing the day in seventh. Dartmouth opened the weekend by taking three of nine matches from the University of Pennsylvania, who finished last season ranked No. 2 in the country. The performance bodes well for the Big Green, which has not won more than one regular-season individual match against Penn since at least 2008.

The team ended Ivy Scrimmages with a 6-3 loss to Columbia University and a 5-4 win over Brown University.

Head coach Hansi Wiens said he will be expecting more from seniors in terms of mental toughness in how they perform and how they finish their matches.

“I expect the team to be close together,” he said. “They’re very very deep — deepest team we’ve had for a while ­— and I’m looking forward to the season.”

Molani hopes to set an energetic and engaged tone in the season opener against George Washington University. In a positive sign for the Big Green, the squad’s within-team challenge matches have had much closer scores this season than in years past.

“It shows that our ladder has a lot of people with similar playing ability and this makes our ladder strong,” Molani said. “A strong ladder will really help us do well against teams we have struggled to beat in the past.”

The men’s team finished ninth last season, a disappointing result after the team broke into the top eight in the 2015-16 season for the first time in four seasons. In a remarkable run, the men ranked as high as No. 5 nationally, defeated Harvard University for the first time in almost 70 years and qualified for the Potter Cup, the A Division national championship, for the first time since 2011-2012. Last year, the team spent most of the season at No. 8 and No. 9 in the nation.

Jack Harvey ’18 thinks last year’s dip in the national standings has more to do with the variability in competition than the actual ability of the team. Like Molani, Harvey believes that the level of play has increased every year since he joined the team.

“What makes squash so unique is the fact that we placed two spots higher in the final season rankings in [the 2014-15 season] than we did in [the 2016-17 season],” Harvey said. “However in my opinion, if those two teams were to play today, our team from last year would beat the previous year’s team pretty badly.”

A proud moment for the team last season was bringing the Hoehn Cup, named for longtime Dartmouth coach Edward Hoehn, back to Hanover.

While the squad hopes to place higher than it did last year and qualify for the Potter Cup, it is more focused on growing as a team, according to Harvey.

“We have an incredible class of freshmen, all of which have the ability to play in the top nine,” Harvey said. “I think this is the strongest team that I have been on here at Dartmouth.”

Toby Harding ’21, who hails from Bristol, England, is the second international player on Dartmouth’s roster, joining Brandon De Otaduy Nam ’20. James Bell ’21 has ranked as high as No. 17 in the United States while Reg Anderson ’21 has been as high as No. 12.

“On this team, anyone could play in the top 10, [depending] on the week and on injuries,” Wiens said.

At Ivy Scrimmages, the men picked up a 9-0 win over Brown and lost 5-4 to Penn and Princeton University.

“It’s a little early to say where we can be or where we can’t be, but there’s a lot of potential out there,” Wiens said about both teams.

His goal for the season, like many of his players, is to break into the top eight teams in the country.

Dartmouth will face its first regular-season test on Saturday, Dec. 2 in Annapolis, Maryland as the men face the United States Naval Academy and the women take on George Washington University.