Cleveland, OH — The University of Notre Dame women’s squash team traveled to The Cleveland Racquet Club to meet up with the women’s team from the University of Rochester over Halloween weekend. Upon arrival the two clubs played in a mini-singles round-robin match in groups of three. This was a great warm-up for both teams, and being the first competitive match for some players it was a great way to work out some “jitters.” Following the mini-tournament the teams played their official CSA match.
Of the eight members on the Notre Dame team, only two had prior CSA experience, but all of the players were filled with a competitive fire and Irish Pride. Three at a time they took to the courts and it was evident early on that this could be the school’s most competitive match to date. Notre Dame began down a match having to forfeit at the 9th position. Grace Lee (#8) and Brittani Russell (#7) started off splitting their matches. Brittani did a great job adapting her tennis background to the squash courts and won her match in three straight games, 11-4, 11-9, 11-8. Tess Fitzpatrick (#5) was next to finish in a match that needed four games to determine the winner. Following two close games that Tess won 11-9 and 11-7, her opponent outlasted her in a 10-12 Game 3. In the fourth game, Tess dug deep and stepped up her play to win the game 11-5 and take the match. This evened up the team score at 2-2.
In the next round of matches Irish players Kelly Levis (#6) and Octavia Ratiu (#3) faced stiff competition but both played well in their CSA debuts. Melissa Curvino (#4) and Mariana Cuervo (#2) also turned in great early season play, but fell to their Rochester opponents.
Team Captain and returning starter Kristine So (#1) took to the court buoyed by the great play of her teammates in the earlier matches and displayed the confidence of a seasoned player. After opening up with an impressive first game win 11-0, she went on to win the match in three straight games, 11-0, 11-8, 11-7.
Following the match with Rochester the team was privileged to have a private group lesson with Cleveland Racquet Club squash pro, Nathan Dugan. Nathan, who began coaching at the age of 12 and was once the 52nd-ranked player in the world, shared some of the insights he’s obtained from over 20 years of playing and coaching the game of squash. After some lecture-style instruction several of the players were able to join Nathan on the court for some drills and first-hand displays of squash technique.
Sunday morning the Notre Dame women returned to the Club where a friendly match was held between the Irish team and female CRC members. Some of the play clearly reflected the lessons from Nathan’s clinic the night before, and everyone had a great time both on and off the court.
The next match for Notre Dame squash will take place on Saturday, November 14th, when the men’s team will travel to Northwestern University to play in a round-robin with the University of Illinois, Western Michigan University, and the host Wildcats.
The women’s team hopes to get in a match in January, but is already looking forward to the College Squash Association National Tournament to be held at Yale University from February 26-28, 2010.