Following a solid finish last winter, the Middlebury women's squash team has its sights set on lofty goals in 2016-17. A season ago, the women posted a record of 9-9 against a demanding schedule and finished the year ranked 15th nationally. The team returns six of the nine regulars to the court this winter.
Led by second-year head coach Mark Lewis, the roster is laden with talent and experience from top to bottom.
Graduating from last year's ladder were Zoe Carey, Tiffany Hau and Saskia Pownall-Gray. Pownall-Gray, an All-NESCAC selection as a junior, battled the opponents top player a season ago, while Hau played at #2 with a 6-11 record for the Panthers. Carey saw action mainly at #4 with a 13-4 mark.
Despite the losses, the team returns a strong nucleus this winter. "Losing three of our top-four players from last year's ladder is tough," said Lewis. "Our returners along with a solid group of first-year players will vie for playing time in matches."
The squad will be led by senior captains Audrey Ellen and junior Liddy Renner (pictured below left). Ellen was a solid presence at the bottom of the ladder with a 5-8 record in the #8 position, while Renner sat out last season with an injury after a 14-6 record as a rookie.
Sophomore Beatrijs Kuijpers, a second-team All-NESCAC selection last winter, anchored the #3 spot in the ladder with a 13-6 mark. Classmate Alexa Comai had a solid initial collegiate season with a 12-6 record mainly at #4, including a 2-1 mark in the Panthers' three matches during the CSA Team Nationals.
In addition to the aforementioned players, the Panthers will have a multitude of depth who will battle for spots in the ladder after seeing playing time. Juniors Lucy Bostwick (11-5) produced a perfect 3-0 record during the CSA Team Championships, while classmate Caroline Jahrling (8-10) solidified the #7 position. Senior Audrey Ellen (5-8) and junior Hope Matthews (7-11) anchored the bottom two spots on the ladder for the Panthers.
Juniors Lily Bogle and Lizzie Hurst, senior Kristina Frye along with sophomore Victoria Villalba will add experienced presences, while a talented group of first-year players will also compete for playing time in the ladder for the Panthers.
"Early in the season, we will rely on our returners to guide us through some tough matches," stated Lewis. "As we continue through the season, we look to build off things learning and skills refined, continuing to move forward and get better on a daily basis."
The Panthers' slate opens at home with a match against Drexel played at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 2, followed by a road contest two days later against Princeton played at Williams. The Panthers will play their next four matches at home after the calendar flips to 2017, before hitting the road for eight of their final nine regular-season contests. In all, the Panthers will play 13 matches during the month of January. Another key date on the schedule is the NESCAC Championships taking place February 3-5 at Amherst.
"We will be challenged to begin our season with matches against programs like Drexel at home and Princeton in a neutral site," noted Lewis. "We will quickly learn where we are strong and what areas our players need to improve."