Vassar: 2010 – 2011 Women’s College Squash Season Preview

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Poughkeepsie, NY — Vassar had a championship trifecta within reach last season: the Brewers won their second consecutive Liberty League crown and made it to the Seven Sisters and Walker Cup finals. Because there are currently only three varsity women’s teams competing in the Liberty League, there will be a round robin rather than a championship event this year. However, the Seven Sisters and Walker Cup championships are still up for grabs, and the Brewers have their sights on both.

The team has graduated four seniors: Olivia Mak, who played number 8 last season, and tri-captains Hope Blinkoff, Emilie Kraft, and Caitlin Ly, who all earned All-Liberty League honors, with Kraft being named Liberty League Player of the Year. Both Blinkoff and Ly have continued to be involved with squash post-graduation. Blinkoff has taken a position with SquashWise in Baltimore, and Ly, who will be attending law school in Boston, is volunteering at SquashBusters.

Though the team has lost four players, they will be gaining four more. Senior Elizabeth Anderson, who has played varsity tennis at Vassar for three years and has played squash recreationally, will be joining the squad. Sophomore Amanda Scott comes to the team with four years of varsity high school squash experience and should play in the middle of the ladder. First years Willow Thompson and Lisa Evans will also bring multiple years of squash experience with them and should add depth to the ladder.

The Brewers will be led by co-captains Nina Punukollu, a junior who played number 9 last season, and senior Kristine Bell, who played behind Kraft at number 2. Four of the six varsity returners earned league honors, with Meg Taylor being named to the Seven Sisters team and Bell, Alexa Lichtenstein, and Libby Pei receiving Liberty League honors. Pei was also named 2009-2010 Liberty League Rookie of the Year, and the Vassar coaching staff also received Liberty League recognition.

In addition to their successes on court last season, the Vassar players were involved with VAST Plus. VAST (Vassar After School Tutoring) is a program in which Vassar student tutor and mentor students from Poughkeepsie Middle School, and VAST Plus has an extracurricular component where students are introduced to a number of activities, including film making, digital photography, basketball, and squash.

Looking ahead to this season, the Vassar team has a number of goals. The team wants to develop fitness and technical skills in the preseason along with strategy and confidence throughout season, laying the foundation for their competitive goals. In particular, the team wants to reverse 5-4 losses to Wesleyan, Colby, and GWU, the team they faced in the 2010 Walker Cup finals.  Vassar also hopes to finish high enough in the national rankings to send two automatic entries to the Individual Championships at the end of the season.

How the team progresses towards these goals will depend on the strength of Vassar’s opponents and how their own returners and first-year players stack up, head coach Jane Parker acknowledges. “Nevertheless,” she says, “We have everything to play for and are excited to get going again in September.”

2009-2010 SEASON RECAP

Season Record: 9-7
Final Ranking: 18
Team Championships/Conference: 18th Over All; 2nd in Walker Cup (C Division); Liberty League
Champions

2010-2011 SEASON PREVIEW

Program Status: Varsity

Head Coach: Jane Parker (Vassar recognized as Liberty League Coaching Staff of the Year)

Returning Players from Team Championships: Kristine Bell (2; Liberty League Team); Jill Levine (10);
Alexa Lichtenstein (7; Seven Sisters Team); Libby Pei (4; Liberty League Team; Liberty League Rookie
of the Year); Nina Punukollu (9); Meg Taylor (6; Seven Sisters Team; studying abroad fall 2010)

Returning to team from 2009-10 squad: Avery Siciliano ’13, Katie Cornish ’12 (studying abroad fall 2010), Sanam Khanna ‘13, Caroline Symons ’13.

Graduates on Last Season’s Team Championships Roster: Hope Blinkoff (5; Liberty League Team; 2009-
2010 Captain); Emilie Kraft (1; Liberty League Team; Liberty League Player of the Year; 2009-2010
Captain); Caitlin Ly (3; Liberty League Team; 2009-2010 Captain); Olivia Mak (8)

Additions to the 2010-2011 Roster:

  • Expected to play in the middle 3: Amanda Scott and Willow Thompson
  • Expected to play in the bottom 3: Elizabeth Anderson and Lisa Evans

Captains: Kristine Bell and Nina Punukollu

Team Goals: Develop fitness and technical skills in pre-season along with strategy and confidence throughout season; win Seven Sisters; win Walker Cup (“C” Division) or compete for the Kurtz Cup (“B” Division); earn high enough team ranking to have two automatic qualifications for CSA Individuals

Key matches: Colby, Columbia, GWU, Northeastern, Saint Lawrence, Wesleyan, and William Smith

To read other team previews, please visit the 2010 – 2011 College Squash Preview Page.