By Michael T. Bello
Published Sep 26, 2015 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Sep 28, 2015 at 10:03 PM ET

Smith College

Northampton, MA — The 2015 – 2016 season marks substantial changes for Smith College’s squash team. After the retirement of head coach Tim Bacon, the school and the outgoing athletic director decided to downgrade its squash program from a varsity to a club program.

Smith has a long history in women’s college squash. Aggie Bixler Kurtz, Smith Class of 1962, organized the first women’s national intercollegiate individual tournament, and later launched the squash program at Dartmouth. Kurtz has been inducted into the Smith College, College Squash, and U.S. Squash Halls of Fame. Smith was one of the founding schools in the Women’s College Squash Association, and alumna Jane Slocum was a finalist for the individual title in 1968 and won the individual championship in 1969.

More recently, the Pioneers won the Epps Cup (D Division) at the 2012 Women’s National Team Championships. Smith received the Chaffee Award for team sportsmanship in 2004, and Smith players have consistently been recognized with the CSA’s Scholar Athlete Award, not to mention numerous Smith College Pokora Senior Scholar Athlete Award winners, including 2015 graduate Jacqueline Zhou.

Perhaps most notably, more players from Smith — four — have been received the Wetzel Award than from any other school. The Women’s College Squash Association’s Wetzel Award is presented annually to a senior who began playing squash in college and has progressed to a high level of skill, demonstrates sound understanding of the game, and exhibits good sportsmanship and a positive demeanor on the court.

Fellow Seven Sister school Wellesley cut its varsity squash program at the end of the 2005 season, citing lack of home courts. Smith College is home to five well-maintained international squash courts. Wellesley’s move to club status was not received well by students or alums. The school returned its squash program to varsity status for the 2007 – 2008 season and has since climbed the national rankings.

With numerous varsity teams launching in the past few years, including Columbia, Drexel, and Dickinson, perhaps Smith College will realize that it can rebuild its varsity team quickly and return to being a true leader in women’s athletics and women’s intercollegiate squash. If Smith empowered a new coach to recruit and build a program, the Pioneers could return to their top 12 rankings from the late 1990s or even their top 10 ranking of the mid 1980s.

Only time, and the new athletic director, Kristin Hughes, will be able to decide the future of Smith College squash.

2014-2015 SEASON RECAP

Season Record: 0-17

Final Ranking: 37

Team Championships: 5th in the E Division

By the Numbers (From US Squash): 5-4 Matches Won: 0 of 0… Top 3 Win %: 0.1765… Middle 3 Win %: 0.0196… Lower 3 Win %: 0.04

2015-2016 SEASON PREVIEW

Program Status: Club

Returning Players from Team Championships: 4. Geena Choo (2017); 5. Carly Melillo (2016);  7. Leah Jeon (2017);  10. Yvie Yao (2017); 11. Gracie Maull (2016)

Graduated/Non-Returning Players from 2014-2015 Team Championships: 1. Jacqueline Zhou (2015 – CSA Scholar Athlete, Seven Sisters All-Tournament Team); 2. Jana Chan (2015 – Seven Sisters All-Tournament Team); 3. Haruka Shimoto (2015); 6. Eva Morgenstein (2017, Study abroad); 8. Keighley Lane (2015); 9. Frankie Scully (2017, Study abroad)

Captain: Carly Melillo

Team Goals: To build and grow the squash team at Smith and create a positive environment for the players to thrive in.

Key Matches: NYU and California Berkeley

To read other team previews, please visit the 2015-2016 College Squash Season Previews page.