Virginia women’s squash has the chance to be the strongest it has ever been following a successful season last year as the Cavaliers return the bulk of a rotation that finished ranked No. 4 in the country. But in order to break into the stronghold the top three teams have on the sport, each returning player — as well as potentially a newcomer — will need to be at their best to persevere over a long season.
Led by Coach Mark Allen, the Cavaliers were able to finish last year at a program-best No. 4 ranking by the College Squash Association. Following the season, senior Meagan Best picked up the Women’s Player of the Year award in the Mid-Atlantic Squash Conference, while Allen earned Co-Women’s Coach of the Year at the MASC awards ceremony.
Although the ranking was definite progress, the Cavaliers will still look to improve upon their 13-7 record. No. 3 Princeton was a particularly tough opponent for the team, as Virginia fell to the Tigers in two of its final five matches. Although No. 4 is a lofty ranking, the next step for the team is to break into the powerhouses of the sport in Harvard, Princeton and Trinity.
Now Virginia looks to come into the season strong as they face several tough opponents early on. The Cavaliers will go up against the No. 1 ranked Crimson Dec. 2 and will look for a rematch against No. 3 Tigers Feb. 17.
The team is joined by two new members of the Class of 2027, both of whom are nationally ranked. Nili Sprecher from Rye Brook, N.Y. qualified for the U.S. Junior Closed Championships in 2021 and 2022 and is ranked No. 5 in New York and No. 19 at the national level. Additionally, Clare Minnis from Bryn Mawr, Pa. led her high school to a No. 3 nationwide ranking while qualifying for three US Junior Closed Championships, finishing tenth in 2021.
Minnis and Sprecher will join a talented returning corps led by Best, the only player on Virginia’s roster to be named an All-American last year. In addition, senior Olivia Walsh — who finished with a 17-2 record last season, good for best on the team — returns as well. Finally, solid players like senior Griffin Dewey and junior Maureen Foley round out an old, experienced roster that has the talent to compete with the top of the squash world.
The biggest change for squash as a whole will be the new championship methodology of the CSA. Previously, only the top eight ranked teams were able to make the top division of the tournament, and therefore be eligible for the national championship. With the new format, the top 12 teams will compete in the A division, while teams ranked below will compete in the B and C divisions, which gives more teams the opportunity to compete at the highest level. Allen mentioned in an interview with Virginia Athletics that only one division is on the team’s mind for this year, although the additional four teams provide more of a chance for the Cavaliers to slip up.
“Our opening goal for both the men’s and women’s teams will be to win the matches necessary to qualify for the A division championship weekend,” Allen said. “The players have been working hard and training well for over a month now, so I’m confident we will be ready.”
The team started the season with two informal scrimmages against No. 11 Stanford and No. 5 Drexel Saturday. The regular season will open on Nov. 4, when the Cavaliers face the Hoyas at home.