By Anne Bello
Published Jun 7, 2010 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Jun 6, 2010 at 8:37 PM ET

Northampton, MA — The Colby College Mules took home the first-ever Women’s College Squash Association Most Improved Team Award.

The Women’s College Squash Association added a Most Improved Team Award this season. The award is similar to the Men’s College Squash Association’s Barnaby Award, which has been awarded since 1984.

The Most Improved Team Award recognizes the team that has improved the most from the previous season. Coaches vote for the award during the National Team Championships (Howe Cup), and the award is presented at the award ceremony during the championships. When voting, coaches take into consideration how much a team’s record has improved as well as its strength of schedule.

The Mules, who are coached by Sakhi Khan, entered the season hoping to improve on their 2008-2009 ranking. Colby had been a consistent presence in the Kurtz Cup for years, and they finished the 2007-2008 season ranked 14th in the nation. After losing several top players to graduation, however, Colby dropped nine spots in the national rankings, finishing the 2008-2009 season ranked 23rd, near the bottom of the Walker Cup (C Division).

With first-year players Kate Pistel and Molly Parsons filling in spots near the top of the ladder, the Mules opened this season with a decisive 9-0 win over Wellesley. A 5-4 win over Vassar in late January moved the Mules back up into Kurtz Cup territory, and they secured a spot in the B Division with a late-season 6-3 win over a surging Wesleyan team.

Colby ended the 2009-2010 season with a 14-12 record, improving seven spots over 2008-2009 to finish 16th in the nation.

The five seniors on the team — Maddie Dufour, Jessica Kravetz, Caroline Reaves, Kaeley Shepard, and captain Samantha Smith — all contributed to the Mules’ success. Smith, who has played number 1 for Colby for four years, earned First-Team All-NESCAC honors; Pistel was named to the All-NESCAC Second Team.

The Colby women did not just improve — they improved with class, receiving this year’s Chaffee Award as well. The Chaffee Award is given annually to a coach whose team has demonstrated the qualities of sportsmanship, teamwork, character, and improvement.