Squash team competes for first time in two years


Intense daily practice on the Squash Courts Photo by Kanav Kakkar

Members of the girls varsity squash team traveled to Blair Academy in New Jersey on Jan. 14 to compete against schools from around the nation for their first tournament in two years. This was an exciting opportunity for the SquashCats, as last season Westminster players could only play against teammates due to the cancellation of all tournaments. 

“It felt so good to get back on the court and play other opponents and just get more experience and matchplay,” said junior team captain Kara Stevens.

Since the 2020 winter season, the team’s last tournament, a lot has changed from court rituals and traditions to communication.

“It was also sort of awkward since we hadn’t done it in a long time, so things like on-court introductions, where we used to shake hands, had changed,” said head coach Cynthia Swanson.

Although matches are returning to normal, players continue to face the challenges of COVID protocols.

“We’ve had to play all of our matches with masks again, and that’s changed the way games have gone, in the sense that we have to take more breaks to breathe and go outside,” said junior Arjun Pradhan. “But other than that, it’s the same old squash.” 

There are seven new captains this season across the boys and girls squash teams, six of whom are seniors. As new team leaders, the athletes are emphasizing the importance of conditioning to adjust to playing with masks on.

“We’re going to be focusing more on cardio and a lot of other lung-building training,” said senior team captain Stephen Shin. “Even when [practice] is over, we want everyone to either stretch and cool down, add another fitness session, or work out a little bit more.” 

The captains also hope to make up for the lost practice times and encourage diligence while practicing.

“It’s important to induce that mindset of ‘we have to get back on track,’ especially since this is going to be everyone’s first nationals or last nationals,” said Shin. “Practices are getting a little bit shorter than usual, so we have to make sure that we’re enforcing that everyone has to come on time.”

Along with improving practice, the captains are also guiding two new grades of underclassmen, who have had little to no tournament experience due to the missed 2020-2021 season.

“As captain, my roles include leading drills and fitness sessions, with an emphasis on guidance and mentorship for new players to gain the confidence and personal development on and off the court,” said senior Sara Kapasi. “The season has been a learning experience for all of us, with returning players reinforcing their skills and helping younger players gain the experience needed for competitive play.”

So far, from the boys to the girls teams, they seem to be doing a great job.

“It’s been a great experience for everybody,” said Pradhan. “They’ve been making sure to look out for the younger kids and making everyone feel included in every practice, so props to them.”

This is the team’s first official season with technical coach Mark Heather. Formerly a professional player and once ranked 39th globally, Heather now runs the squash program at Atlanta Community Squash (ACS). Last season’s practices were split between Westminster and ACS courts, introducing Heather to the Westminster squash program.  

“[Heather] has a wealth of experience and knowledge, and we are so excited to learn from him,” said sophomore Sarah Kim. 

Most tournaments require transportation by plane. However, this season includes a drive up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to play the McCallie School. 

“The intention, depending on COVID-19, is that St. Andrews will come and play as well,” said Swanson. “It’ll be the first time that, without getting on a plane, we will be able to play multiple schools.”

Ultimately, a new practice dynamic, a new coach, and new faces on the roster are all driving the squash team toward the biggest tournament of the season—nationals. In late February, schools from around the country will face off in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“I am so excited to have everyone play at nationals this year,” said Stevens. “It’s going to be super fun bonding with the team and playing with other people.” 

After placing second in 2020 and having last year’s tournament canceled, the Cats are eager to bring home a victory.  

“We’re going for the title this year,” said Shin.

To prepare for nationals, the boys traveled to St. Luke’s School in Connecticut and finished the tournament on Jan. 29 with a 2-0 record.