< back to all posts

Club Squash Tops Deep Tournament Field

The Vanderbilt squash team isn’t like most other teams on campus. It doesn’t have a coach, it doesn’t have practice facilities and the players pay for almost all their own equipment and travel expenses. Since its founding in 2005, none of these setbacks has kept the team from becoming one of the most successful club squash teams in the country.

none of these setbacks has kept the team from becoming one of the most successful club squash teams in the country.

The College Squash Association (CSA) Championships were held in February at Harvard University for the top varsity and club squash teams in the nation. The tournament consists of seven brackets of eight teams apiece. The top eight teams compete in the “A” bracket, the next eight teams compete in the “B” bracket, and so on. Entering the championship ranked No. 41, Vandy was initially set to be the top seed in the “F” bracket, but due to a team being unable to compete, the Commodores became the 8-seed in the “E” Bracket.

In the first round of competition on Friday, Feb. 25, Vanderbilt beat top-seed Haverford convincingly by a score of 6-3. That victory came just a few weeks after falling to Haverford at a tournament in Philadelphia.

“We had a different team then,” said team captain and president Austin Schiff. “Everyone gets really excited for nationals. We can get our top players to come play.”

After beating Haverford on Friday, Schiff and the rest of the team went on to defeat defending “E” division champions Kenyon by a narrow 5-4 margin on Saturday before knocking off No. 31 MIT in the championship on Sunday. Each of those three teams, in addition to the other four teams in the “E” bracket, are fully funded varsity programs from their respective colleges.

“(Not being a varsity program) definitely puts us at a disadvantage,” sophomore Amos Kendall said. “No doubt.”

Despite their obstacles, the Vanderbilt squash team brought home the Chaffee Cup, awarded to the “E” division champions, for the first time in the team’s short six-year history.

Despite their obstacles, the Vanderbilt squash team brought home the Chaffee Cup, awarded to the “E” division champions, for the first time in the team’s short six-year history. Following the tournament, Vanderbilt is the third-ranked club team in the country and highest-ranked club team in the Southeast.

Besides having to pay most of their own expenses, the squash team plays through other disadvantages — they hold student-run practices on the racquetball courts at the campus Student Recreation Center, courts with different dimensions and made of different materials than standard squash courts. Because of high travel costs, all members of the team cannot travel to invitational tournaments during the season. As a result, the team has had to use many different lineups and occasionally players have to compete in extra matches due to a lack of participants.

In the offseason, the team shifted its focus onto fundraising to ensure that they can continue to have success and improve as a team. While they are working towards securing more funds from the university, Schiff understands that it could be a while before Vanderbilt’s squash team is recognized as a varsity sport.

“The biggest thing we’re really working for right now is getting funds,” Schiff said. “We have a system where we’re doing lessons with (the University School of Nashville), doing clinics, doing private lessons.”

In addition, members of the squash team send out a newsletter to keep in touch with former team members and parents of team members. Eventually, their goal is to be able to fully fund travel and registration expenses for the entire team.

Each of the 10 team members that competed in the CSA Championships in February will return to the team next year, leaving the team is in a good position for the future. With their returning talent and experience, the Vanderbilt squash team will look to solidify their strong presence among club squash teams and continue to establish their reputation on the national stage in the 2011-12 season.

Read the story in the Hustler >