Almost a year ago to this day, former Virginia Athletics Director Craig Littlepage announced the addition of men’s and women’s squash as the Virginia Cavaliers’ 26th and 27th varsity sports. The program had been a club sport for roughly 20 years, but when Boar’s Head received a $12.4 million gift six years ago to build out a new 33,000 square foot squash facility, now known as the McArthur Squash Center, that paved the way for the programs to have the resources they’d need to be elevated to varsity status.
In their first seasons as varsity programs, both the women’s team and the men’s team finished inside the top 15 of their respective rankings. For the uninitiated, there are only 34 varsity men’s programs and 30 varsity women’s programs, but when it comes to college rankings, the varsity and club teams compete and are ranked together. The top of the both sets of rankings are dominated by the Ivy League, plus Trinity college, which finished No. 1 in the men’s and No. 2 in the women’s rankings. The Virginia women finished 13th, holding steady from the 2016-2017 season, while the men finished 14th, improving from a No. 18 finish in their previous season.
The women’s team started their inaugural with a rocky 4-8 start, a record that is deceiving when you consider that all eight of those losses came at the hands of teams that finished the season ranked in the Top 15 of the CSA rankings. Even following the 4-8 start, the team remained No. 16 in the country.
But three matches on the road followed by a six-team round robin home tournament gave Virginia a nine-win streak and a No. 14 ranking heading into the national championships. In squash, the national championships are divided into five divisions. The top eight teams, as determined by the CSA rankings, compete for the Howe Cup, the trophy awarded to the national champions. The next eight teams compete for the Kurtz Cup in the B Division, and so on through the remaining three divisions. Sixth-seeded Virginia lost to third-seeded Williams in the opening round of the B Division, but the Hoos came back to win their next two matches, including the consolation finals against George Washington. Virginia finished with a 14-9 overall record, with senior Carey Danforth falling in the individual consolation finals of the Holleran East, 3-2.
The men’s side had a start closely resembling the women’s team. The men started with a 5-6 record to open their inaugural season, but all six losses came to top-20 teams, and like the women, the men went on a 9-0 tear to finish their season with a 14-6 record, good for a No. 14 ranking heading into the national championships.
There are eight divisions in the men’s national championships, and the Hoos’ No. 14 ranking placed them in the B Division playing for the Hoehn Cup. Virginia fell in the first round, 7-2, to No. 11 Western Ontario. The Hoos edged out No. 15 Cornell, 5-4, to best Big Red for the second time this season, but would go on to lose in the consolation finals to No. 12 Drexel, 5-4, to finish sixth in the race for the Hoehn Cup.
Like Danforth, Virginia junior Grayson Bubrosky lost in the first round of the individual tournament, but fought his way into the consolation finals before ultimately losing to Trinity’s Aryaman Adik, 3-0.
Where does this leave the two teams for the 2018-2019 season?
Head Coach Mark Allen is expecting both the men’s and women’s program to challenge for a top-10 finish. As far as the major contributors go, the women’s team only loses Danforth, who was a co-captain and played No. 1 for each of the past three seasons, while bringing in a celebrated Class of 2022. That class includes Caroline Baldwin, who has maintained a top-15 ranking since competing in the GU13 age bracket and finished her senior season undefeated at No. 1; Amanda Haywood, who is ranked the No. 2 player in Barbados; and Emma Jinks, the top-ranked junior player in Canada who played at No. 1 for Canada in the 2017 World Junior Squash Championships and is a four-time national championship.
The men will also lose their No. 1 player in Mason Blake, but with the rest of the team returning and an incoming class that Coach Allen describes as their strongest yet, the Hoos should be in good shape coming into next year. Of Virginia’s incoming class of four, the three Americans include the fifth, ninth, and 13th players in the country in Peter Miller, Patrick McElroy, and Will Holey, respectively. The fourth, Glenn Yates, is representing South Africa in the World Junior Championships, taking place right now in Chennai, India. Allen expects that at least the three Americans will be challenging for spots in the front half of the Virginia roster once they join.
With the core group of both teams returning and nationally ranked junior players coming in, Virginia has reason to celebrate a successful inaugural season, and to look forward to an even better 2018-2019. Here’s men’s team captain Mason Blake just before the round robin home tournament to share a little bit on the game, the progress, and the camaraderie between the men’s and women’s programs.