February 6, 2017

Men’s and Women’s Squash Stand Strong After Coachless Start

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By Shan Dhaliwal

The men’s and women’s squash teams have had an eventful start to the season.

The women’s team (7-3, 2-1 Ivy) is currently ranked eighth in the nation, and one of the team’s seven wins was over No. 7 Columbia. The men’s team (6-6, 1-2 Ivy) started the season on a 3-0 run and went 5-1 in its first six games; however, the team’s record dropped to 6-6 over its last six games. Nevertheless, each team’s performance has been solid considering both teams were without a coach over the first part of the season.

“I think the teams have done very well considering they were without a coach for a couple months,” said head coach David Palmer.

Palmer replaced former head coaches Mark and Julee Devoy at the beginning of this season. The couple retired with the most wins of any coaches in Cornell squash history.

Palmer was not able to make the trip to Ithaca from Florida, where he was head of the David Palmer Squash Academy, until part-way through the season. Yet both squads were able to come together and make the most of their time without a coach.

“I think they really pulled together as a team,” Palmer said. “It’s not the ideal situation, but considering all the hurdles I am very happy.”

Palmer mentioned how the transition to a new place took some time but said that he believes the team has really gelled since his arrival.

“Since I arrived in November, it’s been getting better and better,” he explained.

It was not an easy transition, though, given that Palmer had never coached college players prior to moving from his academy in Florida, where he coached everyone from beginners to pros.

“It’s a new role for me,” he said. “College squash is a different challenge [and] I’ve spent a lot of hours learning all of the procedures.”

Nevertheless, players have adapted well to his style of coaching.

“So far the highlight of the season has been getting David Palmer as the new head coach,” said sophomore Andy Muran. “He’s one of the best squash players ever, and also just an incredible athlete so we are learning a lot about what it means to be professional in the way we prepare, play and recover.”

Muran emphasized that it is Palmer’s attention to detail that sets him apart from other coaches.

The Red recently finished a successful weekend that included wins against Franklin and Marshall for both the men’s and women’s teams and a win against top ranked Columbia for the women.

Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

The men and women both have two matches left in their seasons against Princeton and Penn. Each opponent is ranked within the top 10 of the College Squash Association’s ranking system, so finishing the season successfully will be no easy feat. The Cornell men are ranked 13th and the women are ranked eighth.

CSA individual championships take place between March 3 and March 5. Team championships for the men are from Feb. 24 to 26 at Princeton.

Palmer mentioned how the main end-of-season goal for the women is to maintain their eighth-place CSA ranking so they remain in the nine-team A-Division for championships.

“Overall, our goal is to finish in the top eight and see if we can have some upsets in the championship,” Palmer said.

The men do not have a shot at finishing in the top eight this season, so they will have to wait until next year to have a shot at playing among the nation’s best in the championship. The men will compete in the nine-team B Division. Nevertheless, Palmer and Muran emphasized how the team’s goal is to finish ninth or tenth by the end of the season and dominate the B Division.

“At this point in the season the main goals are to take out Princeton and Dartmouth during the regular season and then to win the B draw at Nationals,” Muran said. “Winning the B’s means we would place ninth in the nation overall.”

With a pair of tough Ivy League opponents left in the season, both the men and women will have to stay poised and focused to achieve their goals.

“We try to take each match as seriously as the next, but there’s always something special about playing another Ivy,” Muran said. “There are usually better turnouts from the crowds and the Ivy teams are always some of the toughest teams we play.”

Read more articles in the Winter Sports Supplement here.

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