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Squash teams flounder in competitive conference

Brown proves no match for prestigious Ancient Eight opponents Dartmouth, Harvard

Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 13, 2015

A tough Ivy schedule has left both the men’s and women’s squash teams reeling. Neither squad has notched a conference win to date, dropping most matches by large margins, most recently to Dartmouth and Harvard. In their seven conference matches, both teams have won  just four games, for an individual winning rate of about 6 percent.

But the stats only paint part of the picture. According to the College Squash Association, the men’s team (5-8, 0-7 Ivy) is the sixteenth best in the country and the women’s team (5-8, 0-7) the eleventh best. The rest of the teams in the Ivy League are also nationally ranked, mostly in the top ten. The Ancient Eight has historically dominated national rankings, with Harvard, Princeton and Yale capturing the majority of national championships for both men and women.

“It can be tough, particularly within the Ivy League, since all these schools have rich histories of having really good teams,” said Jack Blasberg ’16, captain and a Herald sports columnist. While teams like Princeton won their first championship in 1942, Brown’s program is relatively new.

The women’s squad is coming off of two losses last week, suffering a 9-0 sweep against Harvard (10-1, 6-1) Thursday and dropping a 6-3 decision to Dartmouth (6-7, 1-6) Friday. Many players had tough matches against their Crimson rivals. Isabel Scherl ’17, Skylar Murphy ’16 and Alexandra White ’15 each won at least one set, but no player was able to capture a win over the elite players on No. 2 Harvard.

In Hanover, Murphy, Quincy Beck ’18, Mina Shakarshy ’15 and Katherine Pisani ’18 succeeded in capturing individual matches. The Big Green’s defeat of Bruno was its first Ivy win of the season.

This weekend, the women will compete at the Kurtz Cup, the national team championships for squash. Their first match will pit them against Franklin and Marshall (men 13-6 and women 9-7), which is ranked just below Bruno. The teams have not yet met this season, which promises an exciting and potentially tight matchup.

Both Bruno teams will be competing in the bracket of teams ranked from nine to 16, where their experience playing top-tier teams will pay off.

“We’ll see some teams with very good players at the top of their line up,” Blasberg said. “But we can shine and play well with our whole lineup.”

The men’s squad most recently fell to Dartmouth (6-7, 2-5) and Harvard (8-3, 7-0), dropping 9-0 decisions to both schools. The Crimson men were hard to beat for the Bears, who fell in three games in all but one contest. Bruno showed more fight against Dartmouth, mounting more competitive campaigns in a few individual matches but still failing to pick up a win.

“We’ve played some really good teams and represented ourselves well,” Blasberg said. “Right now we’re really looking forward to going down to Hartford (for Nationals) and doing some damage.”

The men have a week off before their national team championships, where they will undoubtedly continue to face stiff competition. They will spend the next week resting nagging injuries and preparing for a demanding match-per-day schedule.

“Whatever happens is going to happen,” Blasberg said. “We can only go out there and play as best we can. … If we do that, we’ll get a lot of good results.”


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  1. The men’s and women’s squash teams’ winless records in the Ivies are but one example of the depths to which Brown’s athletic competitiveness within the Ivy League has sunk. Blaming the squash teams’ year-in, year-out winless Ivy record on the relative newness of the varsity programs is a losing argument. Columbia only launched its varsity squash programs several years ago, but, already, its men’s team is ranked #4 in the nation, and its women’s team is ranked #7. Whether it’s the incredibly woeful hockey records, the consistently mediocre basketball records, the increasingly mediocre lacrosse records, the consistently mediocre baseball, field hockey, swimming, volleyball records, etc., whether its Brown having won the least number of Ivy championships over the last decade or so, Brown’s lack of competitiveness in the Ivies has become embarrassing. I sincerely hope that Jack Hayes and the administration can solve this, but the issue comes down to money, and here Brown is fighting an increasingly losing battle against its Ivy peers. Brown’s endowment performance is the worst in the league (for example, for the fiscal year ended 6/30/14, the endowment’s growth rate was the second worst among the 45 largest college endowments in the country). The Brown Annual Fund has stagnated over the last 8 years while other peer annual funds have grown. The Brown Parents Annual Fund has stagnated. The administration seemingly has no answer to this dilemma, which itself is very troubling, and Brown continues to fall further behind. Until the money issue is solved, don’t expect many Ivy titles in Providence.

  2. Pinderhughes says:

    Columbia might not be the best example. To my knowledge, they don’t have a hockey team, and their football team is consistently horrendous. Your point is accurate though. It’s fascinating that this administration doesn’t appreciate how successful athletic teams can boost campus morale and potentially increase alumni giving. I was at Laivetes Gymnasium when Earl Hunt and the Brown basketball team dealt Harvard a beating. I remember thinking to myself I bet Harvard will make have a championship basketball team a priority now that Brown had won over them in such a humiliating fashion. Sure enough, they went out and got Tommy Amaker, and he started to recruit some of the best African-American student-athletes in the nation. They are now a consistent Ivy champion, and the students are excited and supportive of the team. Same for football and hockey. Brown’s problem is it has never had a great president. Some good ones, but none in the same lane as Charles Eliot, Kingman Brewster, et al. They still don’t have a front line administration. The new president seems to be pleasant and intelligent, but she is not a game-changing leader, and, until Brown gets one, it will always be short on money and competitiveness.

    • I agree with you on the subject of leadership with the current president being among the weakest I can recall over the last 45 years. But, she can redeem her weak performance to date by executing a $2.5 – $3.0 billion capital campaign. Unfortunately, her “strategic plan” consists of a bunch of vague platitudes that are not the sort of grand and lofty goals that inspire substantial donor commitment. If that proves to be the case, the Brown Corporation should quickly show her the door, as it is beyond dispute that, absent prompt and pronounced growth in Brown’s endowment and current use funding, this is a university in crisis.

      • Pinderhughes says:

        Do you think Brown’s alumni base can support a 2.5-3 Billion dollar capital campaign?

        • Yes. When Simmons’ Boldly Brown campaign was conceived shortly after she arrived at Brown, no one thought Brown could raise $1 billion. The campaign launched in 2004 with a $1.4 billion target and closed in 2011 after having raised $1.614 billion. The problem is that raising large sums takes a strong, visionary leader who can articulate grand, lofty and compelling objectives worthy of the wealthiest alums’ dollars. The task requires a measure of boldness, charisma, persistence, cajoling and the willingness to ask for large sums that may seem unrealistic or unattainable. Simmons had those characteristics; I don’t see that Paxson does (I hope I’m wrong). The $2.5 – $3.0 is in the alumni base, for sure, but Paxson amazingly has yet to make a compelling case for why they should donate at that level. And the disgraceful Ray Kelly episode (together with Paxson’s wimpy response) and the continuing far-left drift of the campus climate have alienated a not insignificant portion of the contributing alumni base. Frankly, Brown should “buy” off one or two of the top capital fundraisers at HYP to head up the effort. But, yes, I believe that the $2.5 – $3.0 billion is there. And, if Brown can’t raise dollars at that level during the upcoming campaign, its already compromised ability to compete with its Ivy + peers will be permanently and irrevocably undermined. A related problem for Brown is its absolutely woeful endowment growth and investment performance, but that is a subject for another day.

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