College squash fans will hope they got enough rest over the holidays because the heart of the season is here and the road to the championships is filled with mouthwatering match-ups. This weekend is just one example, with rivalry contests filling all three days.
Prominent on the schedule is the annual Pioneer Valley Invitational, hosted by Amherst College and Mount Holyoke College. Several closely-ranked teams make the trek to western Massachusetts, some to protect their standing and others to make their mark.
One of those programs eager to hold their ground is Connecticut College. In particular, the No. 24-ranked women’s program faces key tests in their bid to capture a Walker (C) Division berth as a Top-24 team. Wins against No. 26 Mount Holyoke and No. 27 William Smith, not to mention a strong performance against No. 20 Wesleyan, could solidify their case. The No. 27 Conn College men have a test of their own when they meet No. 28 Wesleyan later this afternoon.
Pioneer Valley participants Hamilton and Haverford also aim to clinch important victories over the weekend. The Hamilton-Wesleyan men’s match should be a close encounter on Saturday evening between the 28th- and 29th-ranked teams. Just prior to that, Haverford meets Hobart and William Smith Colleges in match-ups with Top-30 placement on the line.
Earlier this week, Yale hosted Trinity in a huge cross-state battle, with the No. 4 Yale women surprising previously-unbeaten No. 2 Trinity, 5-4. That results brightens the spotlight even further on the Stanford women’s third and final regular season trip out east. This weekend, the 5th-ranked Cardinal have to overcome No. 14 George Washington on Friday before the gauntlet of Yale on Saturday and Trinity on Sunday. So many top-10 women’s matches have finished with 5-4 scorelines this season that it would almost be a shock if the matches this weekend didn’t finish with that result.
On the men’s side, two Ivy League peers face stiff tests on their home courts. Newly minted No. 9 Dartmouth hosts three matches over the weekend, looking to carry over the momentum from their upset triumph of George Washington last weekend. No. 5 Drexel and No. 6 Rochester both have better rankings, but beating Dartmouth at home is always a tough ask. Meantime, No. 14 Cornell welcomes No. 13 Franklin & Marshall to Ithaca in their own bid to jump at least a place in the next set of rankings.
Fans will need to stay tuned all the way through Sunday afternoon with two big match-ups looming down south. Virginia welcomes Columbia to Charlottesville for what should be two hotly-contested matches. The Virginia men and the Columbia women are the higher ranked squads by a few places each, but don’t rule out an upset on either side in this one.
And, as if the weekend schedule wasn’t enticing enough, this coming Wednesday features a few great local rivalries, including Princeton versus Penn and Bowdoin at Colby.
The order of play for the week from January 23 to January 29 is:
- 3-court system: 3,2,1 / 6,5,4 / 8,7,9
- 5-court system: 1,2 / 4,3 / 5,6 / 8,7 / 10,9