Women’s squash places 3rd at Walker Cup

Senior co-captain Catherine Shanahan prepares to return the ball during a match against Connecticut College at the Tufts Squash Center on Feb. 1. Nicole Garay / The Tufts Daily

The women’s squash team traveled to New Haven, Conn. over the weekend to compete in the College Squash Association National Team Championship hosted by Yale University. The tournament was broken into five divisions, A–E, with the teams in each division competing for their division’s respective cup. Tufts competed for the Walker Cup in the C division bracket of the tournament.

Seeded No. 3 in the C division, Tufts opened the tournament with a decisive 7–2 win over No. 6 William Smith College on Friday morning.

The depth of the Jumbos’ ladder was on display in this match, with six three-game wins coming from positions four and below.

Playing in the No. 4 position, sophomore Diya Sanghi defeated William Smith sophomore Molly Wachter decisively in three games.

“It was a good matchup,” Sanghi said of the team’s match against William Smith. “We had to stick to our game.”

First-year Isa Schneider, who lost her match 3–2 in the second position, similarly credited the team’s success in this match to adhering to its plan.

“We went into it and we had a game plan,” Schneider said. “We all thought about energy and persistence and getting through it, and I think that really helped us.”

Tufts’ win over William Smith sent them to Saturday’s semifinal round during which they faced second-seeded Franklin and Marshall College. The Diplomats proved a difficult opponent earlier this season when they defeated the Jumbos 6–3 on Nov. 23. Going into the match, Tufts considered themselves the underdog, and the team looked to make improvements in areas it struggled in during its prior meeting with Franklin and Marshall.

“We went in with more purpose, more fight, more energy,” Sanghi said.

The Jumbos ultimately fell to the Diplomats in what proved to be a down-to-the-wire match in which each individual point was crucial. Four of the five matches that Franklin and Marshall won lasted five games, with the winner of some of the individual games surpassing 11 points to win by the necessary two-point margin.

“We came into the Franklin and Marshall match with the mentality that we were the underdogs,” Schneider said. “We wanted to prove to them that we are really tough. I think it showed with all of our five game matches that we really wanted it — we really, really pushed.”

Senior co-captain Catherine Shanahan showed resilience in this match, playing despite illness that had sidelined her during Friday’s quarterfinal round. Shanahan’s teammates were inspired by her determination to play in what would be her final two team matches of her college career.

“She fought and it was amazing,” Sanghi said.

After Saturday’s narrow loss to Franklin and Marshall, Tufts faced No. 4 Wesleyan in the third-place match on Sunday. The Jumbos defeated the Cardinals for the third time this season with a score of 8–1 to claim third place in the 2020 Walker Cup.

The Jumbos faced the Cardinals in their Nov. 16 season opener, coming away with a 6–3 win, and again in the NESCAC Championship consolation round, winning 8–1 to advance to the fifth place match against the Bates Bobcats where they would ultimately lose and claim sixth in the NESCAC this season. 

During Sunday’s matchup, several individual players faced Wesleyan opponents who they had seen at least once already this season. Playing in the No. 2 position, Schneider defeated Wesleyan junior Ananya Vir for the third time this season.

Schneider believes that the team’s two prior wins over Wesleyan motivated the players to fight hard for the same result on Sunday.

“We know what they do well, and after playing them so many times,” Schneider said. “[We wanted to] keep proving to them that they’re not going to beat us.”

At the No. 3 position, Shanahan defeated Wesleyan senior Josie Russ in a back-and-forth five game match. After giving up the first game 9–11, Shanahan fought back, winning the second game 14–12 to even the score at 1–1. Shanahan and Russ split the third and fourth games to force a fifth. Shanahan won the fifth game 11–8 to secure an individual win and a point for the Jumbos.

Sunday’s match was the final team match for senior co-captains Shanahan and Claire Davidson. As the only two seniors, the two have been instrumental to the team’s success this season, and their absence will surely be felt.

“They left their mark on our team,” Sanghi said of her co-captains. “Both of them are fighters on the court — they never give up. Everyone looks up to them on our team.”

This weekend’s tournament marked the end of the 2019-2020 season for the Jumbos, who finished with a 10–11 record, a sixth place finish at the NESCAC tournament and a third place finish at the Walker Cup. The CSA Individual Championship will take place on March 6, 7 and 8.