Women’s squash entered 2024 with a statement win, routing Bowdoin College 9-0. The team was a cumulative 27-1 in their games, which took place on home courts. This victory marked the first of eight dual matches this month.
The day culminated with Maria Clara Ramírez ’26 winning an intense match in the glass courts. Co-captain Chelsea Cho ’25 applauded Ramirez’s efforts, especially given the situation of the match.
“[The glass courts] are pretty different from the regular court, so it’s hard to get used to,” Cho said. “Sometimes, when you’re the last one, it’s hard to keep your foot on the gas, but she played amazing.”
Earlier on in the day, Zayna Usman ’27 won the second match of the day in emphatic fashion, losing just seven total points. Co-captain Ellie Burke ’24 shared her excitement at Ushman’s win.
“It’s the first time she was playing here on Dartmouth’s home courts, so it was really exciting to see her dominate her match,” Burke said.
Prior to winter break, the squash team played three games, including two matches against no. 1 Harvard University and no. 7 University of Virginia. These games provided a great challenge and opportunity for the team to build an aggressive mindset for the season. Head coach Vikram Malhotra emphasized this mindset in his pre-match talk before the season opener against Harvard.
“If we’re competing with them, we have to believe,” Malhotra said. “If we don’t believe that we can go out there and do something amazing, then we can’t expect others to believe in us.”
The team has been working heavily on the mental aspect of the sport, which is often undervalued, according to Cho. This is especially important in the beginning of the game, when pre-game nerves linger.
“We’ve been working on establishing a strong mental game from the very beginning and keeping up that intensity throughout the entire match,” Cho said.
Burke added that the increasing level of competition in the sport leads to greater pressure, but also greater aspirations.
“There are a lot of teams below us that are coming for our backs,” she said. “There are also teams that are right above us that we feel we’re getting closer to every day.”
The game against Bowdoin put these aspirations to the test, and the team rose to the occasion. Malhotra was pleased with the authority and intensity that the team brought to the match.
“We wanted to send a message and make sure that we structure our season in a positive way moving forward,” Malhotra said. “I’m really happy with the amount of positive squash that was played out there.”
Despite being an individual sport, the squash team is very tight-knit and collaborative, various players said. From their unwavering support of each other in the stands to helping each other in the classroom, players on the team cherish the support it offers.
“We’re not just hanging out at practice and training together, we’re being there for each other outside of the courts, too, whether it’s taking classes or getting meals,” Cho said. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the team.”
Looking ahead, the team has a busy January, with two games this weekend against Amherst College and Tufts University. Both are within two spots of Dartmouth’s 10th place national ranking, making this a pivotal weekend in determining the outcome of the season, Burke explained.
“This weekend is crucial for us,” she said. “Coaches have been ingraining that this can help determine our spot at Division One Nationals in March, so we need to come out with some big wins to guarantee that spot in the top 12.”
In the bigger picture, though, the team wants to continue making positive strides and building on the platform they have created, Malhotra said.
“In sports, amazing things happen, and people see those amazing things, but they don’t realize the amount of time, effort and work that goes into them,” Malhotra said.
Whether the team’s lofty goals of competing and winning national championships are achieved this year or 10 years from now, the players and staff understand that each small victory is a stepping stone towards that goal.
“Our team embraces that this could be the process that will eventually get us to that next level,” Malhotra said. “They may not see that amazing moment, but they’re definitely instrumental in creating it for our future teams.”