Women’s Squash Team Finishes Fifth at B-Level Nationals

Following a fourth-place finish at the NESCAC tournament, the women’s squash team finished the year with a strong win over Williams — their first since 1998 — to take fifth place in the 2022 Kurtz Cup.

The Amherst women’s squash team closed out their season with a 12-7 regular-season record, finishing the season on a high note with their first victory over Williams since 1998. While the team ultimately lost to Brown in the CSA Tournament, they over-performed their ranking and finished fifth in the B-level national championships. Their season included a dominating win streak during J-term that put them at 14th in the nation according to the College Squash Association rankings. This qualified them for the B division national championship, the Kurtz Cup — an upgrade from 2020’s qualification to the C division Walker Cup.

With their final regular season ranking of 14th in the nation and placement into the Kurtz Cup, whose competitors rank between nine and 16 in the CSA rankings, Amherst came into the tournament as the sixth seed. The team was slated to face third-seeded Brown in their opening match. With their superior roster depth, the Bears overwhelmed the Mammoths in the 2-7 loss. Nevertheless, Lilly Soroko ’22 battled hard in an incredible final elimination match of her Amherst career. Twice down a game, she managed to fight back to tie the match each time until Brown’s Esha Lakhotia finished the job with an 11-5 win in the final game. In the ninth seat, facing an 0-1 deficit, Maggie Pearson ’24 completed the comeback, dominating her opponent in three consecutive games to win 3-1.

After falling to Brown, the Mammoths entered the consolation bracket and were set to face a familiar opponent — Bates. Amherst overpowered the Bobcats in their first two matchups 7-2 and 6-3, highlighted by Blair Englert’s ’24 perfect 11-0 game in her 3-1 victory in the second match. In the first seat’s 48-minute thriller, Callie Delalio ’24 came out strong with a 2-0 lead over Bates’ star Andrea Martagon, but could not hold her lead and fell to Martagon (6-11, 8-11, 8-11) in the 2-3 loss. With Isabelle Tilney-Sandberg ’25 losing her own nailbiter, the Mammoths relied on quick decisive sweeps from Daksha Pathak ’23, Lauren Weil ’22, and Soroko. While the Kurtz Cup match proved to be slightly more challenging, their 5-4 win came as no surprise.

In the battle for fifth place, the Mammoths’ long-awaited opportunity for redemption against Williams arrived. Williams led with three straight sweeps to start the matchup; no match lasted more than 23 minutes. Not to be deterred by the early setback, the Mammoths fought back relentlessly. In the second seat, Pathak began the rally with two commanding 11-7 games, and then only lost one point in the last game to put away her opponent. Weil and Tana Delalio ’24 echoed Pathak with dominating 11-2 and 11-3 games, respectively. After her close loss in the match against Bates, Tilney-Sandberg sought redemption in the best match of the day. In the first three games, the score did not exceed a margin of three points, but Tilney-Sandberg got the better of Williams’ Amanda Solecki, earning a 2-1 lead. Solecki, however, was relentless and easily took the fourth game 11-6. She sought to continue her domination, leading the final game by a score of 10-7, comfortably giving herself four match points to put Amherst away. Against all odds, however, Tilney-Sandberg refused to lose, winning three straight points to tie the game up at 10-10. She was again faced with a Solecki match point but tied the game up again. After a marathon of a match, she was presented with her own opportunity to put the match away, and secured the point to win 13-11, notching a key win and earning the Mammoths’ first victory against Williams since 1998.

Reflecting upon her squash career at Amherst, Emma Spencer ’22 shared how much the Williams win meant to the senior class:  “There were so many uncertainties with covid this year, especially over the last few weeks, and we didn’t think we were going to play at Nationals. But to be able to compete and beat Williams for the first time since 1998 was so special. Since freshman year, our team’s main goal has been to break this dry spell, and to have it be our last match as the senior class was an unforgettable experience.”

While the team portion of the season is over for the Mammoths, they will conclude their resurgent season with CSA National Individual Championships this weekend, March 4-6, in Philadelphia.