Wellesley, MA — In a surprising move, Wellesley College announced that they will no longer field a varsity squash team. The school plans to compete as a club beginning next season.
As part of the transition, varsity head coach Wendy Berry’s tenure with the Blue Pride has ended. Berry just completed her tenth season at Wellesley. Overall, she led the team to an 89-135 record.
During the summer of 2005, Wellesley shifted squash from a varsity to a club sport for the first time. The club team formed a partnership with the Dana Hall School, a nearby women’s preparatory school that had four international squash courts. Student and alumni passion for squash led to the return to varsity status and the hiring of Berry.
Berry has had an extensive coaching career, which includes teaching collegiate, professional, and national players. During her playing career, Berry represented England in numerous international competitions.
In 2009, the Women’s College Squash Association presented Berry with the Chaffee Award, which is given annually to a coach whose team has demonstrated the qualities of sportsmanship, teamwork, character, and improvement. She guided Wellesley to the 2010 E Division title at the Women’s College Squash Association National Team Championships.
Under Berry’s tutelage, two Blue Pride players, Ashley Stevens (2010) and Kate Loftus (2016) were presented with the Wetzel Award, which 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. Berry’s qualities as a teacher were evident in her players being recognized with the Wetzel Award.
Now as a club program, Wellesley will be ineligible for future College Squash Association awards, such as the Chaffee and Wetzel awards. In addition, Wellesley will not be ranked for the majority of the season.
Berry guided the Blue Pride to three winning seasons: 2013 – 2014, 2014 – 2015, and 2015 – 2016. During those seasons, Wellesley also captured the Seven Sisters title.
Supporting her fellow coaches, Berry served numerous seasons on the Executive Committee of the Women’s College Squash Association.
Wellesley had a strong squash tradition. The school first fielded a team in 1940 and hosted the first two women’s individual national championships in 1965 and 1966. In 1969, Wellesley’s Sandy Servans was a finalist in the individual tournament.
In announcing its decision to drop varsity squash, Wellesley cited the lack of growth in collegiate squash since 1994. This is the same logic that Smith College cited when it dropped its program from varsity to club at the conclusion of the 2014 – 2015 season.
This logic cited by both Smith and Wellesley appears flawed considering nine schools have added varsity squash since the 1993 – 1994 season: Haverford (1993 -1994), William Smith (1998 – 1999), St. Lawrence (1999 – 2000), George Washington (2002 – 2003), Stanford (2003 – 2004); Middlebury (2007 – 2008, added men’s team to an existing varsity women’s team), Columbia (2010 – 2011), Drexel (2011 – 2012), and Dickinson (2014 – 2015). These nine schools have recognized the potential of collegiate squash and the benefit the sport provides to student athletes and the institution. Of the nine schools that have added varsity squash programs, four of the programs have had either a men’s or women’s program compete in the top division of the National Team Championships.
In addition, several club programs have been progressing towards or are pursuing varsity status, including the University of Virginia and the Bard women.
Wellesley and Smith are only funding varsity sports that are recognized by the NCAA. With intercollegiate squash’s growth over the past 20 years, Wellesley’s and Smith’s decision to downgrade their programs only harms student athletes from all varsity institutions and defers the possibility of NCAA inclusion a few more years.