Co-Captain Karen Wang ’23 Inspires and Builds Spirit on Girls Varsity Squash

As a 2021-2022 U.S. Squash Scholar Athlete, Co-Captain Karen Wang ’23 has been described as both a “stabilizing force” and an aggressive player by her teammates. Beginning her athletic career as a  competitive fencer, Wang’s transition to squash was unexpected, yet her passion for the sport grew profoundly. 

When she began playing at Andover, the unexpected camaraderie among the team helped Wang see the group aspect of an individualized sport.  

“Coming to Andover, I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a squash team for the first time. I never had that experience before because squash is a very individual sport, since you are [competing against] another person by yourself. Even though we did compete against each other, we still formed a really tight bond, like cheering each other on while we played against other schools or just hanging out after practice,” said Wang. 

After playing alongside Wang at Princeton University’s Junior Club in 4th grade, Liz Zhao ’24 was motivated to continue playing squash at a competitive level. The two formed a mentor-mentee relationship at a young age, which has continued on to Andover. 

“She’s actually the person who inspired me to start playing squash… She’s a great coach. She’s very observant when watching matches and she gives me very good advice on how best to play and how to plan my strategy when playing each opponent based on their strengths and weaknesses… She always makes it her goal to try to run for every ball and not give up on any shots, which is admirable,” said Zhao.

Similarly, Christina Yen ’24 also felt Wang excelled in balancing the competitive nature of squash with showing companionship towards her teammates. She admired Wang’s open mindedness to constructive criticism and her ability to provide balance to the team. 

“Karen [has] more subtle leadership. She’ll often be there if you just want someone to talk to. If you watch her matches you’ll see that she’s a very good example of how to be competitive on the court and be sportsmanlike about it. I guess a stabilizing force throughout our entire team… She’s also very receptive to feedback. So that humble attitude on the court and off the court, that’s been something that at least in my experience, I’ve learned from,” said Yen. 

In terms of technical skills, Wang excels at drop shots, according to Shreya Bajaj ’23, which requires balance and finesse in the wrist. Wang’s unique playstyle is one thing that her teammates strive to learn from her. 

“She plays very aggressively, which is something that I aspire to do. And she’s not afraid to hit the ball hard and make her opponent really work. Her squash drop shot is really good. A lot of us feel we have a kind of different game, but she has a very specific [style]. I know that if I give her a bad shot, she’s literally just going to take it [and] smash it, [and] I’m not going to be able to get it,” saud Bajaj. 

According to Co-Captain Migyu Kim ’25, an aspect of Wang’s strong leadership is her poised attitude, as well as her willingness to share her knowledge with others. 

“I feel like a lot of times, she’s someone who’s very consistently calm and kind and friendly, and you feel like you can always turn to her and talk to her. I mean because she’s a Senior, she has a lot of experience and wisdom collected over the years, having been on the team for four years,” said Kim.

Furthermore, to emphasize teamwork and collaboration, the two co-captains created a pre-game ritual to release tension. Wang believes this ritual has helped the team open up to one other, and strengthened their team’s spirit. 

Wang continued, “We initiated something called our ‘cult ritual,’ which is before every single game. Our team would circle around a tee or circle around some object, and then we would do jumping jacks, counting down from ten and getting progressively louder. And then finally, when we hit one, we would all scream super loud to get our energy going and feel super pumped to play. I feel like those little moments really helped our team bond together more because we’re able to be more vulnerable and just have a lot of fun while playing and also performing well,” said Wang.