Women’s squash had a tough weekend at the NESCAC Women’s Squash Championship where they came in fourth. After beating Tufts University 6-3 in the quarterfinals, they subsequently lost to Trinity University, 8-1, and then Middlebury College, 9-0. Their current overall record has moved to 8-8. In the team’s first match of the tournament, the Mammoth’s depth worked to their advantage as most of their wins came from the bottom three quarter of the ladder.
The top two spots were both close games, however. Amherst’s court one player Caroline Conway ’20 lost to Tuft’s Claire Davidson 12-10, 11-9, 11-2 and Rachel Ang ’19 lost 11-7, 11-6, 11-4 on the second court. Amherst took all of the remaining spots except for Priya Sinha’s ’19 match against Tuft’s Zarena Jafry, which was a hard-fought, five-game bout. Most notably, Amherst’s fourth seed Riddhi Sampat ’21 was able to clinch her match in three games, while the rest of the ladder won in four. Margaret Werner ’21, despite losing her first game, won the next three handily, defeating her opponent Chloe Kantor.
When asked about their performance this weekend, assistant coach Stuart George said, “We knew going into the weekend that the big match for us was the first match on the schedule for us, the Tufts match. Not only did it result in us meeting our seeding of fourth in the tournament, but also 16th in the country, qualifying the team in the second division at Nationals in two weeks’ time, where we have been since the 16 team won the Walker Cup [the trophy for the third division] two years ago.”
Despite Amherst’s confidence after a solid first match securing at least a fourth-place finish, the Mammoths met a daunting opponent later that day in the semifinal: Trinity University, the defending tournament champion. The Bantams ended up taking the top eight spots out of nine. Amherst’s Ashira Mawji ’21 was the only winning Mammoth, clinching the first game 11-5, then falling 9-11 but regaining her footing in the third and fourth games. She wonthem 11-4 and 11-7, respectively, to prevent the Mammoths from being shut out.
Trinity ended up clinching its 13th consecutive NESCAC title after beating Williams College later Sunday afternoon.
The Mammoths finished up their showing at the NESCAC Championship losing 9-0 to Middlebury College in a match for third place. Werner lost her first game 3-11, but then came back her second game to win 11-3 and then took the third game 11-8. Just as it was looking like the match was in her hands, her opponent Natasha Lowitt of Middlebury took the fourth game 11-9, and ultimately took the last game as well. Many other matches went to four games, including Sinha’s match against Anne Glassie, starting off strongly, winning the first game 11-4, but losing the next three 8-11, 7-11, 8-11.
When asked about their last two performances during the tournament, George said, “We lost 9-0 to Middlebury and this was obviously disappointing as we had a 5-4 and 6-3 losses against Middlebury last year, which was obviously much closer. However, I feel like we were unfortunate in a few of the matches today, losing several close ties where the ladies performed well but didn’t manage to close out the games. Also, with the top two of the roster graduating and two freshmen coming in lower in the lineup, a few changes in scoreline are expected.”
Looking into future years, George said that he “believe[s] the team has made tremendous improvements over the course of the season. That, paired with some new recruits next year, should be the push we need to go deeper into the events and higher on the national rankings.”
When asked what the Mammoths can do moving forward to improve their chances, Werner said, “Heading into Nationals, we are all working on playing proactively, not reactively. We will be the bottom seed in the second division against programs who play at a very fast pace,” she said. “In order to match them, we will need to volley the ball and hit with positivity.”
The Mammoths’ fourth-place finish in the tournament secured a spot in the Division II CSA Women’s Team Nationals, which will take place on Feb. 22 at Trinity in Hartford, Connecticut.
The Mammoth’s outlook over the course of the season can be summarized by
George’s last comment. “I think it’s a really exciting time for Amherst squash and the team have worked hard this year and have earned their retained 16th position.”