Featuring Lineup Stocked with Young Players, No. 1 PU Women’s Squash Ready for Ivy Clashes
SLAMMING SAM: Princeton University women’s squash player Sam Chai follows through on a shot in recent action. Senior Chai has starred at No. 5, helping the Tigers go 9-0 overall and 2-0 Ivy League. Princeton, currently ranked No. 1 in the Dunlop Women’s College Squash Association Team Rankings, hosts No. 5 Penn on January 30, No. 2 Harvard on February 2, and No. 9 Dartmouth on February 3. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s office of Athletic Communications)
By Bill Alden
With her Princeton University women’s squash team lineup containing three freshmen and three sophomores in the top nine, Gail Ramsay wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the winter.
It didn’t take long for longtime Princeton head coach Ramsay to realize that her young squad could be something special this season.
Facing No. 4 Stanford on November 17 in its second match of the season, Princeton cruised to a 7-2 victory, making an early statement.
“They were a top 5 team, they are strong at the top,” said Ramsay, who is in her 25th season at the helm of the Tiger program. “I was really concerned.”
The addition of freshmen Bubble Lui (at No. 1), Elle Ruggiero (No. 3), and Andrea Toth (No. 7) along with the progress of sophomores Raneem El-Torky (No. 2), Grace Doyle (No. 4), and Emme Leonard (No. 6) has made Princeton a stronger and deeper team from top to bottom.
“We have three freshman pushing some people back,” noted Ramsay, whose current lineup also includes senior Sam Chai at No. 5, junior Morgan Steelman at No. 8, and senior Isabel Hirshberg at No. 9.
Continuing to reel off wins after the Stanford triumph, Princeton improved to 9-0 overall and 2-0 Ivy League before going on exam break in mid-January.
The Tigers, currently ranked No. 1 in the Dunlop Women’s College Squash Association Team Rankings, resume action this week by hosting No. 5 Penn on January 30, No. 2 Harvard, the defending national champion, on February 2, and No. 9 Dartmouth on February 3.
“I am happy, my team is all healthy, they don’t have any nagging injuries,” said Ramsay.
“If you are feeling good, there is so much more opportunity to pull some upsets. I am thankful for that. It is actually a fairly young team so I am pretty excited about that too.”
Despite its relative youth, the Tigers pulled off a pair of exciting victories before exams, edging No. 2 Trinity 5-4 on January 10 and No. 6 Yale 5-4 on January 13.
The win at Trinity broke a drought for Princeton in Hartford. “We hadn’t beaten them away since 1999 or something like that; it is a tough home court for them, we haven’t had an answer for that,” said Ramsay.
“My freshman at No. 3, Elle, had a big win over a senior. She is probably five years older than Elle, that was a tough win. We definitely felt like we were going to have to wins at 7-8-9 and Sam Chai won at No 5, that was a key match.”
In the win over Yale, sophomore Doyle produced the pivotal win at No. 4, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2, (8), (3), 9, 8, 8.
“For Grace to come back was sensational,” said Ramsay. “I thought she was as good to better than that person, but in the first two games, she looked a little out of sorts and the other girl was playing great ”
Looking ahead to the key Ivy clashes this weekend, Ramsay is looking for some more winning performances.
“We have Penn at home, I am happy about that,” said Ramsay. “I am feeling optimistic even though it is right after exams. Hopefully they will be ready to go back out on the court. Harvard is tough because they have had some incredible recruiting years. They just have good players. I feel we could do a little bit of damage. You never know what is going to happen.”
If Princeton’s young players can keep progressing, the Tigers could be tough to beat down the stretch.
“With the three freshmen and three sophomores, if they get a handle on it, start feeling it, and get their games on track, it could be exciting,” said Ramsay.