College Squash Novices Rock at Smith!

This season the Smith College Squash Team was one of only a handful of teams to improve upon their initial CSA season ranking – the team moved from a pre-season ranking of 29 to 27 – third place in the Epps Division at Howe Cup.

Concrete evidence of the team’s hard work and improvement comes from looking at the team’s first match on November 13, 2010 – a 5-4 loss to Sister Wellesley College – and their last match of the season on February 20, 2011 at Howe Cup (with both Clair and Jaimi away on semester abroad programs – AND a score was entered incorrectly – Xi did not play it is “Eunice” of the famous Zhao clan who played at #7):

Most of the squash players on the Smith College Squash team have never touched a squash racquet (never mind playing high school or junior squash) before coming out for the team – yet they are absolutely critical to its success!  Let’s look at the experience of this year’s squad:

1. Meg Oliverio ’11 – no high school squash team, several weeks of clinics, 4th yr. on team.

(2. Clair Oblamski ’12 – zero prior, Spring semester abroad, so only 16 weeks of squash! Beat Amherst’s Mimi Bell, 2011 Ann Wetzel Award Winner 3-0 in December).

2. Jasmine Wallas ’11 – no high school squash team, a few lessons and some rec play, 4th yr. on team.

3. Helen Queenan ’14 – Newton Country Day squash team, 1st yr. on team.

4. Eunice Zhao ’13 – zero prior squash, 11 weeks of squash! 1st match of year was at #9!

5. Jen Krain ’12 – zero squash, 11 weeks of squash! Undefeated at Howe Cup!

6. Elizabeth Guyman ’11 – zero prior squash, 7-3 record this year (2 losses as a lefty due to injury), 4th yr. on team.

(7. Jaimi Inskeep ’12 – zero prior squash, Spring semester abroad, so 4 weeks of squash!)

7. Catie Blunt ’12 – no high school squash team, a few clinics, 3rd yr. on team.

8. Elena Plesco ’12 – zero prior squash, 2nd yr. on team.

9. Xizhu Zhao ’12 – zero prior squash, 3rd yr. on team.

10. Julie Wang – ’11 – zero prior squash, started in Jan. so 6 weeks of squash.

11. Szilvie B. Kiss – ’13 – zero prior squash, started in Jan. so 6 weeks of squash.

Here is where Eunice and Jaimi in their second week when we were trying to loosen up their tennis swings for squash (they play on the Smith Tennis Team):

Here is Jaimi playing #6 at the Wesleyan Invitational (so 4 weeks of squash):

Here is Eunice also at the Wesleyan Invitational playing #7 (so 4 weeks) – she moved up to #4 by the end of the season to beat her Wellesley opposite (she started at #9 in our first Wellesley match).

Unfortunately no match footage of Jen (???), but here she is in January practicing with Meg our #1 – she was undefeated at Howe Cup at #5 – amazing (so been playing 5-6 weeks in the video):

A quick word about Clair Oblamski who is on a spring semester abroad program in Copenhagen – here is a link to Clair chatting about her first ever college match (a win at #7 against Wellesley in November 2009 after playing for 5 days!).

The College Squash Association Ann Wetzel Award goes to the best (and most sporting) college senior squash player who stated playing in college – this year’s winner was Amherst’s Mimi Bell – Peter Robson kindly sat out a few players when we played them in December, so Clair at #2 got to play Mimi – and beat her 3-0 (so in her second season – but since she plays tennis in the fall – only her 16th week of playing squash)! (Note that Smith has won more Ann Wetzel Awards than any other team).

Our last video example is Julie Wang’s interview after her first match after only five days of squash! Julie, who plays on the Smith Rugby team, answered a mid-semester call for extra players as a last semester senior.  She won her last match at Howe Cup!

Unfortunately – since as the team #11, she spent her Howe Cup playing for several club/emerging teams such as Vanderbilt and NYU (she won some matches for them!), we do not have any footage of Szilvie – just a photo of her hitting a backhand with a perfect cocked wrist as she helps out at the Smith College Recretional play evening:

So if you think about which team improved the most amongst the college teams…you may want to ask how good were they (where would they be ranked on Day 1 of the season)?

  • 5 of the 13 women who played for Smith this season had not picked up a squash racquet before October 13, 2010;
  • Of the remaining eight, only one had played for a varsity high school squash team – and three of these eight had never touched a squash racquet before coming to Smith; so a total of 8/13 complete novices – guaranteed more than any other team!
  • without these 8 novices – that would leave Smith with a team of only 5 (good for the emerging division at Howe Cup!:)

So finishing 27 out of 38 teams is quite a feat considering the experience of the team – and if you take out the Division I schools (since all other sports are ranked within not across Divisions) Smith finished with a national ranking of #16 (#1 academic) amongst the Division III schools, and #3 amongst the Seven Sisters Colleges.

The team still has a lot of improving to do – a four-week spring season starts next Monday – the goal being lots of technical improvement (fix those grips, wrists, learn new skills, etc.).

Next year will be a slightly different story with the return of Clair (#1?), Joanne (#3-4?) and Jaimi (#5-6) from their study abroad, along with two new international recruits: Jacqueline Zhou (#1-3?) from Singapore and Korea’s Vivian Lee (#3-5?) – and possibly two other recruits who have just been admitted but have not made their final decision.

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