Ten years ago, a small group of Spence girls were finishing up the historic first season of a new Spence sport, Varsity Squash. The team, most of whom had never played squash before that season, and none of whom had ever played team squash, came together to establish the foundation for Spence Squash success for years to come. That group inspired a generation of Middle School students to take a risk and try a new sport, picking up a squash racquet for the first time in Middle School to prepare for an opportunity to play for the Spence Varsity Squash team.
That first group of Middle School players honed their skills and joined the ranks of the varsity program once in the Upper School, leading the Spence Squash team to new frontiers; a share of the AAIS regular season champions title, the AAIS tournament final and the US Squash High School Team Nationals Division IV Quarterfinal. With those pioneers now in college, in their shadow, a new generation of Spence Middle School students has emerged, joining forces with their seasoned and experienced Upper School peers, propelling the Spence Varsity Squash team to new heights.
Entering the final week of January, the Sabers stand with a record of 11 wins and a single match lost. They are in a tie in the league standings with AAIS rival, Saint Ann’s School, having split their two meetings (5-2 and 3-4). As a team, their individual match play record of 75 games won to 9 games lost is the best in the NYC Tri-State group and they have the top 4 individual winning percentages in the 17 schools in the group. As the team prepares to travel to the US Squash High School Team Nationals, it will do so, seeded in Division II, the highest ranking in school history and placing them among the top 32 teams in the tournament. Their bracket will include Phillips Exeter Academy, Hotchkiss, Taft, and Germantown Friends, among others. Spence is certainly unique among the Division II schools, travelling 40 minutes one-way to Brooklyn 5 days a week for practice and matches. The team with their “home court” the furthest from the Sabers’ Den, has been turning heads all year, not just for their upcoming placement at Nationals, but as they pursue the program’s first AAIS Squash Tournament Championship.
It has been a blend of the youthful, talented exuberance of Middle School students and outstanding focused leadership from seasoned Upper School players, coming together to build a deep, strong and accomplished championship caliber team. Leadership from seniors, India K., Chloe P. and Louise W. has been critical to taking the tendency to focus on individual play and polish it into the critical elements necessary for successful team squash. Each member of the team, challenging, pushing and supporting one another as the group focuses on the quest to be the best team they face, in any situation. As is the case with any successful team, they have had to work together to overcome adversity; injuries, illnesses, playing up in the ladder, making personal sacrifices of individual goals to put the team first. In addition to the strong and diligent leadership of the seniors has been junior, Clara L., sophomore, Madison Y. and freshmen Paloma G. and Annie K., all with a wealth of experience in both the AAIS and at Nationals. With this rock-solid group of team experience to provide the underpinnings of team’s success, four eighth-graders have surged onto the scene. Ashleigh and Bracie A., have an abundance of experience from their play amongst the top of the team’s ladder a year ago. They are joined by Sophia K. and Megan L. who are among the team’s four undefeated players with 12-0 and 8-0 records, respectfully. With 7 of the team’s 10 players sophomores or younger, there is much to be said for the Spence’s “youth movement”, which began with that Middle School program, just a few short years ago. That said, no one would argue that the clear message is “the future is now”, as India, Chloe, Louise and Clara’s impact and contributions over the last four years is the unparalleled and unquestioned driving force for this team to go boldly into uncharted territory, on the hunt for their first Division II title at Nationals and their first AAIS Tournament Championship.
Just ten years ago, they were a new team at Spence, with plenty of promise; today, the Sabers are no longer the underdog in the eyes of the squash world. Their quest for the titles that are earned, not individually, but through a complete and determined team effort begins with US Squash High School Team Nationals on Friday, February 1, at 2 p.m. on the campus of The Westminster School. There is no doubt, the Big Cats are in for a fight, but a pack of Sabers is a formidable foe!
2019 Head U.S. High School Team Squash Nationals
Friday, February 1
Spence vs. St. George's School, 2 p.m., Westminster School
The winner advances to the Division II Quarterfinal on Saturday, February 2, at 10:20 a.m. vs. the Winner of Andover/Baldwin.
The loser moves to Draw 1 and will play again on Friday, February 1, at 6 p.m. vs. the Loser of Andover/Baldwin
Follow updates on the Sabers' Squash team at Nationals on Instagram
and the Spence Athletics webpage