The immense depth and tenacity that Andover Girls Squash demonstrated propelled the team through four exhausting matches this weekend at the 2015 Division I National Championships at Trinity College and secured the team the spot as the 13th ranked team in the country.
“The team worked so hard and supported each other with such love, encouragement and spirit. It was awesome! I was really, really proud of all eight of my players,” said Coach Jennifer Elliott, ecstatic about the team’s new national standing.
With a 2014 Division II first place title under its belt, the team did not know what to expect for its first year competing in the top league.
Loading up the rally wagon to journey to Hartford, CT., Andover knew that competing against the strongest 16 teams in the nation would put its talent and drive to the test.
Captain Madeleine Mayhew ’15, number one seed, said, “We weren’t sure what to expect going in. I wanted all of the players to give it their all, to prove ourselves as a team and have fun together. I think we accomplished all of those things, and I haven’t laughed that hard in so long!”
On Friday, the team got off to a rocky start as it suffered a 2-5 loss against Milton and a close 3-4 loss against Pingry. Although frustrating, the defeats served as a great learning experience for the players.
“During our matches against Milton and Pingry, I think that we went in thinking and embracing the fact we were the underdogs. Competing in Division I is very tough, and I think that we had a little bit of trouble in our first two matches with owning each point and believing in our ability to win. Though it was a slow start for us, our losses definitely motivated us to improve and end our tournament with wins in our remaining matches,” said team member Jennifer Lee ’18.
With a fresh mindset, the team bounced back from the two disappointments and prevailed in its next two matches against Groton and St. George’s.
On Saturday, the team took on Groton for a 6-1 victory. Mayhew had an especially notable match, where she played into a tiring fifth game. In Mayhew’s high-strung battle, she ultimately persevered to clinch the last game 14-12 and the match 3-2.
Number four seed Claire Kister ’16 was the only player to fall short for Andover.
The team took on St. George’s on Sunday for its last match of the weekend. Fueled by the confidence from its prior victory, Andover came out on top, winning 4-3 after a nail-biter match.
The win ultimately came down to number three seed Hannah Burns ’15, who rose under the pressure with the support of her teammates on the sidelines.
Burns said, “I had a feeling that this final match would come down to me as the number one and number two seed players were really, really talented. I knew that the number three seed on St. George’s was also really strong, so I felt that it would be a close game.”
Burns’ opponent played with a lot of energy, giving her a tough fight. Down 7-10 in the opening game, Burns stayed focused as she came back to finish it off 12-10.
Already tired from the first game, the second game played out similarly for Burns. Burns was down 8-10 but came back to win 16-14 with six set points against her. Burns shook her opponent’s confidence and won easily in the third game 11-3.
“It was definitely up there for the top three most tiring matches I have ever played,” continued Burns.
With this clutch win, Andover secured its place as 13th in the nation.
Not only did the players demonstrate their strong potential on the court, but their experiences off the court left a mark on each other as well.
Lee said, “By far the best part of Nationals was getting to bond and play with my teammates. I love every single girl on the team, and the type of environment that we have set is so supportive and fun… This team environment has definitely set the tone for the rest of my Andover experience, and I could not be happier to have such amazing and kind teammates to share my love for squash with.”
Filled with pride and ready to take on the remainder of the season, Andover will face Brooks on Friday and will travel to St. Paul’s on Saturday in hopes of building on its momentum.