SquashCats eye national championship

This season, the varsity squash team is looking to repeat last season’s success. The boys and girls varsity teams placed second and fourth nationally in the 4A division last year, and the boys won at the 2012 nationals in the 6A division.

For the first time in the history of the squash program, every player on the boys varsity team has had tournament experience, taken lessons, or has a national ranking. There are no new players on the team this year, but they have lost many key players. With this young team of only one junior, sophomores, and freshmen, the boys squash team could have a very bright future.

“We lost five seniors, so we have a young team. It’s going to be a struggle at first, but we’ll do fine in the end,” said sophomore squash player Vishan Patel. “We’re hoping since we have a young team right now, that we’ll improve together, and within the next couple of years, we’ll be back contending for a national title.”

On the girls squash team, about half of the starting lineup will be returning seniors. Although not all of them have tournament experience, most of them have plenty of experience playing in a team setting.

Among the returning seniors is Pierson Klein, who recently was recruited by Columbia University’s successful women’s squash team.

“It’s a pretty complicated process for squash, since it’s not like most mainstream sports, especially in the south,” said Klein. “I had to spend a lot of my spring and summer of last year just trying to contact coaches, going to camps to talk to coaches, making videos of me playing squash, and going on official visits.”

Varsity coach Rick Byrd had incredibly high praise for Klein.        “[Klein] is one of the best, if not the best female player we’ve ever had,” said Byrd.

Even though the varsity boys squash team lacks experience playing tournaments in a team setting, Byrd still believes they can do well. Byrd stressed the fact that they needed to focus on each point.

“One of the things that we want to improve upon is the ability to stay focused throughout a match,” Byrd said. “When you lack experience, it’s not uncommon to get up early in a match, have a lull, and find yourself playing four or five games, even though you could have finished it in three.”

Klein also believes that that they can improve upon last year’s fourth place finish.

“We’re hoping to do better than we did last year, as we got fourth in our division,” said Klein, “but mainly I just want to help the team get more match play so that we’re ready when we go up against people we’ve never seen before.”

With the overarching goal of the season to compete for a national championship, Byrd said that one of the obstacles to nationals is division placement.

“In squash, you don’t know what division you’ll be playing in until nationals,” said Byrd. “On top of that you don’t know the matchups you’re going to have. The biggest thing that we can do to get another first place banner is to improve every week.”

Byrd also believes that people overlook team success in higher divisions compared to winning championships in lower divisions.

“Once you hang a national championship banner, people define success as another banner,” said Byrd. “What was lost was that last year’s team was placed two divisions higher than the 2012 championship team and was a finalist.”