Squash is a bit of an enigma to many UR students.
A lot of people have no idea how the sport is played. A lot of people know that our men’s team is quite good at the sport. A lot of people think of squash as a preppy, elitist, exclusionary sport. For those who fall into the first group, here’s a breakdown: Squash is played on a small, rectangular court by two players. (There is doubles squash, but it’s far less popular.) Players hit a small rubber ball at the front wall. When they successfully do so, it becomes their opponent’s move. The ball may hit the back and side walls on its way to or from the front wall, but the shot is only in when it hits the front. Points are scored when the ball bounces twice, or is hit out of bounds. (There are upper boundaries on the side and back walls, and an upper and lower boundary on the front wall.)
Games are played to 11, but must be won by two points, and matches are decided by whoever wins the best of five games.
Generally the sport is individual, but in school it is played as a team, with the team that wins the majority of the nine individual matches taking the overall victory. Each player is ranked, and their match is against the opposing team’s player of the same rank.
The UR Men’s Squash team took their first such victory, 5–4 over Cornell on Thursday. Saturday, the Yellowjackets struggled through a 7–2 loss to the fourth-ranked University of Pennsylvania. The following day the ‘Jackets suffered a narrow defeat, this time 5–4 against Drexel University. While it has not been an ideal start, the Yellowjackets show some promise, with first-year Abdelrahman Lasheen and junior Marcus Sim each winning their first two matches.
While the team is currently ranked sixth, they hope to improve. “We’re probably looking to be a top four team this year,” said junior Ashley Davies. “We’re hoping to get a guy coming in January from England […] If we get this guy in January we’d be looking to try and make the finals.”
Davies himself, who plays at the first seed, is a notable talent. Prior to attending UR he played on the professional squash circuit, before deciding to use his talents on the court to help him along a different path. “Unfortunately squash isn’t the most lucrative of sports. You can do very well if you are in the top 10 [in the world] … but I was just getting by with expenses,” said Davies. He was drawn to UR by its strong academic programs and by the coach, former world number four Martin Heath.
Heath has helped to make the Yellowjackets into perennial contenders in collegiate squash. When Heath took over the program in 2005, the team was ranked number 28. Three years later they were number three. The team hasn’t dropped out of the top 10 in a decade.
The team will have a short break before facing a series of top teams. They hope to continue their success at the second ranked Trinity College. Less than a week later they will face number five ranked Yale University, number 10 Dartmouth College, and number one seeded Harvard University. While they may be unknown to many UR students, the Yellowjackets are a force to be reckoned in collegiate squash.