Heading to Harvard by van on Thursday night, the Smith Squash team knew it was going to be a tough battle to win their Division at the 2012 CSA National Championships – the goal was to win the Epps Division and finish with a national ranking of 15.
The University of Virginia was first up at 11:00 a.m. on Friday – thankfully the match had been moved at the last minute from the 9:00 a.m. slot – nobody likes to get up at 6:00 in the morning! UVA fought hard but lost to a superior technical team. Smith #2 Clair Oblamski fought gamely to lose 11-2 in the fifth (we told her to lie down when it was clear we had won the match but she wouldn’t!), but could not overcome what turned out to be a severe chest and double ear infection: Smith 8 UVA 1. Both #7 Catie Blunt and #8 Elena Plesco came through to take their solid opponents in four games.
The Smith Squash Team had met Vassar College on three occasions prior to the Epps Semi-final at 9:00 in the morning on Saturday the 25th. The team’s last 5-4 win three weeks prior, featured seven matches that went four or five games and really could have gone either way. As in the last match it was the bottom of Smith’s line-up that saved the day – in particular #8 Elena Plesco’s reversal of her Seven Sister’s result with a gutsy 11-9 finish in the 5th! Clair was still struggling with breathing and #3 Krain almost cracked her opponent with a narrow 12-10 loss in the third: Smith 6 Vassar 3 – a reversal of the team’s opening result way back in November at the Guy Fawkes Challenge held at Vassar.
William Smith had won their last encounter with the Smith Squash Team by a score of 6-3 – but with four of the William Smith victories coming in four or five tough games – so the team definitely had a chance. The middle of William Smith’s line-up had changed with #6 Anne Habecker moving up to the #3 spot, and #4 and #5 shifting down. Habecker had beaten Smith #6 Jaimi Inskeep 3-1 at the Smith invitational, but she could not withstand the cool, tactical play of #4 Eunice Zhao who calmly stuck to her game plan to take the deciding ninth match in four games. A great win for Eunice as she had lost at the #4 spot to now #5 Leous Courtney in a very tight 8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 12-10 match – Courtney took Smith’s #5 Queenan (bad heel bruise) in 4 games in this final.
The second key match that turned the tide was Co-Captain #9 Szilvi Kiss’ match in the first round of play. With William Smith’s former #9 out of their line-up and WS’ Molly Doran moved up to replace her (Szilvi had lost to Molly earlier in the season), Szilvi came back from losing the first game to take it 3-1.
Highlights of this Year’s Howe Cup:
- 15th National ranking (Division III)! Up two spots from last year.
- 6 CSA Scholar-Athletes – more than any other team.
- Clair Oblamski wins the Ann Wetzel Award – best college player who started squash at college.
- Reversal of two prior losses: Vassar and William Smith.
- Eight alums came to support – a team record!