No. 13 women’s squash is off to its worst start in more than a decade following shaky performances from the bottom of the team’s ladder.
Head coach Wendy Lawrence said the Colonials (2-7) are underperforming at the bottom part of the team’s ladder due to inexperience, lack of confidence and physical strength. While the team has fallen to tough competition in recent weeks, Lawrence said it is better for the team to struggle now to improve before College Squash Association play next month.
“We try to peak at nationals time,” Lawrence said. “It’s too early to write the obituary on this.”
Only two Colonials hold individual winning records so far this season, with sophomore Zoe Foo Yuk Han and junior Engy Elmandouh leading the pack with 5-4 records at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. The Colonials returned the majority of their ladder this season, but the bottom three spots have rotated between sophomores and freshmen who hold a combined 6–23 record.
Even with the slow start, Lawrence said there is still time for the team to reverse course. With only two wins on the season, the Colonials plan to improve their mentality and physicality moving into the second half of the season.
“I don’t think they’re quite as mentally tough as they need to be,” Lawrence said. “I think they get a little more intimidated than they should.”
The women’s squad started the season with a 9–0 sweep of Georgetown on Nov. 9 during which no Colonial dropped a game. After dragging through a five-match losing streak, the team earned a close 5–4 win over No. 14 Middlebury College about one month later.
Six of the Colonials’ seven losses have been to teams ranked in the top 10 of the CSA national rankings. The squad earned at least one individual win in four of its losses, but was cleanly swept by No. 1 Princeton on Nov. 18 and No. 6 Stanford on Jan. 9. The Colonials dropped 6–3 to No. 15 Williams Saturday.
Women’s squash players extended their matches lost past three games only 25 percent of the time.
“We’re not as competitive as we should be,” Lawrence said. “I would like to see them picking up more games without question.”
Two of the team’s top-three players in the ladder are upperclassmen in Elmandouh and junior Emma Tryon while senior Brooke Feldman plays at the No. 5 spot. Elmandouh said the team has been grappling with a lack of confidence and an underdog mentality.
“Our main challenge for the season has been that we go into matches feeling a little bit like we’re mismatched,” Elmandouh said.
To remedy the lack of confidence, Elmandouh said she and fellow team captain Feldman held goal-setting meetings to help improve the team’s mentality.
Lawrence said the squad is physically weaker than other teams she has coached in the past, and the Colonials are “playing catch up” when it comes to improving strength and conditioning.
“I’m trying to get them stronger, so they feel less physically intimidated, and then just trying to build up their confidence so they’re not quite so mentally intimidated,” Lawrence said.
Members of the men’s squash team have offered to work with the women’s team, Lawrence said, and she matched members of the women’s team to practice against the men’s squad to get them tournament-ready.
“Women playing men is a great way to build up strength and build up the ability to play players that are stronger,” Lawrence said.
While the team has yet to collect steady wins this season, Elmandouh said the Colonials have put an emphasis on playing hard and hustling on the court to shore up their chances of success going forward in the season.
“Just stay out there as long as it takes,” Elmandouh said. “As long as it takes to win just stay out there, run for every ball, hunt everything down, hustle, because you’ll get there.”
Foo Yuk Han and Elmandouh said the Colonials have been learning from their mistakes and the losses have revealed the team’s fighting spirit.
“When we’re down, you can see everyone is trying their best, they’re fighting,” Foo Yuk Han said. “They’re always trying to pick up balls.”
Women’s squash is back in action Wednesday to take on No. 11 Virginia at the McArthur Squash Center at 5:30 p.m.