Squash wraps up first opening weekend

Women sweep, men split in first matches as varsity sport

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The No. 13 women's squash team defeated No. 23 Dickinson 8-1 and No. 18 Franklin & Marshall 8-1 in its first weekend as a varsity sport.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics | Courtesy Virginia Athletics

The Virginia men’s and women’s squash teams both played their first ever matches at the Division I level this past weekend. Opening at No. 13, the women defeated No. 23 Dickinson 8-1 in Carlisle, Pa. Saturday, and defeated No. 18 Franklin & Marshall 8-1 in Lancaster, Pa. The men, opening the season ranked No. 17, fell to No. 22 Dickinson 7-2 but upset No. 15 Franklin & Marshall. 

Surprisingly, both the men and women were ranked to start their inaugural Division I season. Coach Mark Allen, however, said this isn’t too surprising given the nature of college squash today.

“Traditionally squash, still being a relatively small sport at the college level, it hasn’t really separated between club and varsity programs,” Allen said. “All the teams have the potential to compete together … With a budget and full time coach, we were running as a club program but weren’t a typical club team. We certainly had the resources to compete with some of the mid- to lower-level varsity teams, so we’ve been playing amongst them for three or four years.”

Even as a club team, the Cavaliers were on the national radar. 

“Over the last four years, we’ve been pushing up the rankings bit by bit to the extent that last year, the men finished No. 18 in the country [and the] women finished No. 13,” Allen said. “But both were the No. 1 club team for the last two years.”

Allen also said the program is expected to rise next year with the addition of scholarship money. 

“The group I have now is better than last year,” Allen said. “The women started at 13 — if we have a great season, I’d like to move up one or two places and knock right on the door of the top 10. The men started [at] 18 … [and] our goal is to sneak into the 16th division and play in the B bracket, which is something we’ve never done before.”

Despite the fact that the schedule is similar to what it has been in recent years, Allen said there was still a noticeable change, at least for the initial matches. Allen said he generally anticipates some level of nerves from new players and freshmen, but the new pressure of representing the University as a Division I player showed in some of his older players.

“It’s a very different thing when you’re suddenly playing varsity, and there was a fair amount of media buildup as well,” Allen said. “They were aware eyes were on them — it definitely felt different. I was so pleased with the team because of the pressure … The guys took it really well and responded beautifully by beating a team that we’ve lost to the last three years. So that was nice to see.” 

Both the men and women return to action for their home opener at the McArthur Squash Center in Charlottesville. The women face Stanford Friday, Nov. 17, while the men’s next match is against Penn Saturday, Nov. 18. 

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