Sports

Three represent squash team at Individual National Championships

Bears rank low in 'B' division of national championships at Princeton this weekend

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, March 2, 2015

Nick Talbott ’15 played in his first championship tournament this weekend. Talbott, who was previously on the men’s crew team, has translated his athletic ability to the squash court.

The best squash players in the nation battled it out this weekend in the last tournament of the season: the College Squash Individual National Championship. Three members of the squash team traveled down to Princeton Thursday for matches from Friday morning until Sunday night.

Hannah Hay-Smith ’17, ranked No. 71 in the country, Mina Shakarshy ’15, ranked No. 74, and Nicolas Talbott ’15, ranked No. 71 among men, all competed in this weekend’s tournament. Hay-Smith and Shakarshy competed in the Holleran Division — the “B” division of play. Talbott competed in the Molloy Division, the men’s “B” division.

“This was my first squash tournament ever,” Talbott said, who switched to squash from crew his junior year. “It was great playing at the top collegiate level against guys who are at or just below the pro level.”

Hay-Smith fared the best in the tournament. In the first round of play on Friday, she faced Drexel sophomore Mary Fung-A-Fat, ranked No. 59 in the country. Hay-Smith got off to a shaky start, losing the first set 11-5. She quickly bounced back to win the second set 11-6, but the Brown sophomore stumbled again in the third set and lost 11-7. With Fung-A-Fat up two sets to one, Hay-Smith edged out two victories in the next two sets, winning both 11-9 to advance.

Late Friday afternoon, Hay-Smith walked back into the courts to face off against Middlebury junior Saskia Pownall-Gray, ranked No. 40 in the country. Hay-Smith took the first two sets 11-9 and 11-1, respectively. The third set proved difficult — it was a constant back-and-forth, with neither player grabbing the necessary two-point lead to win.

Finally, Pownall-Gray claimed victory 14-12. But Hay-Smith quickly crushed any newfound confidence Pownall-Gray might have gained, finishing out the match with an 11-3 win in the fourth set.

With two matches won on the first day of tournament play, Hay-Smith looked to her next match Saturday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Shakarshy was having more trouble in the first round of play against Yale junior Georgia Blatchford, ranked No. 56 in the country. Shakarshy got off to a rough start, losing the first set 11-7. After regrouping, Shakarshy entered the court with a new fire and claimed the next two sets.

With two wins under her belt, Shakarshy was ready to hammer home a victory. But Blatchford came out with a vengeance and stole the next two sets to move on.

Though Shakarshy lost in the first round of play, she continued to vie for a top spot in the consolation bracket. Later in the day, the senior faced Hay-Smith’s first opponent, Fung-A-Fat, in the second round of consolation play. The match was even, with Fung-A-Fat taking the first set 12-10 and Shakarshy taking the second and third sets 12-10 and 11-5, respectively. Shakarshy had a quick dip in her play, losing the fourth set 11-7, but she quickly came back to win the fifth set by a narrow 14-12 margin.

Over in the men’s bracket, Talbott battled Williams senior Kevin Chen, ranked No. 58 in the country, in the first round of play. Talbott took a brutal beating, losing all three sets. The senior then entered the consolation bracket and found success. A few hours after his loss to Chen, Talbott matched up against Dickinson freshman, No. 74 Nicholas Struzenski, and swept him in all three sets.

“My strategy is to outrun the other guy,” Talbott said. “I make the game a physical match instead of a skills match because my skills are not at the level of most of my opponents — guys who have been playing for 15 years.”

As all three Brown players advanced to Saturday, the stakes were higher. Hay-Smith faced Blatchford and struggled to find her footing, dropping all three sets. With her loss in the third round, Hay-Smith did not qualify for the consolation games and finished the tournament with a respectable 2-1 record.

Similarly, Shakarshy was finding success. After a close win Friday, she found her spark Saturday. She played Haverford freshman Isabelle Guatoco, ranked No. 79 in the country, in the consolation quarterfinals. Shakarshy dominated the entire match, winning the first set 11-6 and the last two sets 11-3.

Shakarshy then headed to the consolation semifinals, where she faced Williams junior Nicole Feshbach, ranked No. 75 in the country. Shakarshy had a rocky start and lost the first set 11-9. But she quickly gained back her confidence and took the next three sets to advance to the finals.

Talbott played Princeton junior Sam Ezratty, ranked No. 65 in the country, in the consolation quarterfinals and swept him in three sets. But he stumbled in his next matchup against Middlebury freshman No. 67 Will McBrian. Talbott could not find his rhythm for the first two sets, dropping both, but he came back to edge out an exhaustive 15-13 win in the third. But he was not able to maintain his game, losing the fourth set. He finished the tournament with a 2-2 record.

Once Hay-Smith and Talbott were both out of the championship tournament, they turned to support their teammate Shakarshy, who stepped onto the court for the consolation finals against Yale sophomore No. 83 Madeline Tomlinson. In the first two sets, it was impossible to tell who would win. Tomlinson took the first set 12-10 and Shakarshy took the second set by the same score. The tension was palpable, and the stress was building. Shakarshy struggled to win points and lost the two remaining sets 11-5 and 11-5.

The three Bears performed well this weekend at the College Squash Individual Championship tournament and finished the season strong, while the men’s and women’s teams ended with a 7-9 record and 0-7 in the Ivy League.

“We had a great season,” Talbott said. “We got three new freshmen on the men’s side who have really got the ball rolling. The rankings were tough, but we hope to establish a spot in the ‘B’ division for next year.”

A previous version of this article misstated that Nicolas Talbott ’15 was previously a member of the men’s tennis team. In fact, he played tennis in middle school and was previously a member of the men’s crew team. The Herald regrets the error.

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