By Dent Wilkins
The 2013-2014 College Squash season promises to feature tight competition in both the Women’s and Men’s leagues, with teams looking to build on last year’s successes. Team rosters will be strengthened by an influx of top freshman, many of whom recently competed for the U.S. National Team at the World Junior Championships.
The Harvard University Women’s team enters the season defending two consecutive national championships. Led by two-time Intercollegiate Individual Champion Amanda Sobhy (who remains undefeated in two years of college competition), and bolstered by freshman and U.S. Junior National Team member Katie Tutrone, Harvard remains the team to beat in 2013-2014.
Chasing Harvard in the No. 2-4 positions in the preseason team rankings are Trinity College, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, respectively. Results between each school were extremely tight last season, and all closely challenged Harvard, including a 5-4 victory for Princeton on their way to an undefeated regular season before falling to Trinity in the semifinals of the Women’s Team Championships. The Tigers hope to build on this success with the addition of Maria Elena Ubina, who helped lead the U.S. Junior Women’s Team to the finals of the World Championships this summer. The preseason No. 3 Penn Quakers will look to avenge their 6-3 semifinal loss to the Crimson from last season with a strong squad, led by sophomore Yan Xin Tan, and preseason No. 2 Trinity plan to mount a title push behind 2013 Intercollegiate Individual finalist Kanzy El Defrawy.
On the Men’s side, Trinity enters as defending team champion, having reclaimed the throne last season and winning fourteen team titles in the previous fifteen years. They are expected to once again challenge for the championship behind the leadership of legendary coach Paul Assaiante. Harvard will look to get in the way of a renewed Bantam’s streak with a strong returning core of players, including 2012 College Individual Champion Ali Farag, the addition of three-time U.S. Junior Champion Dylan Murray and Junior National Team member Devin McLaughlin. Also looking to unseat Trinity will be Yale University, which also added a top U.S. recruit from the Junior National Team, Edward Columbia. Princeton, with new Head Coach Sean Wilkinson, is coming off an Ivy-league title which they shared with Harvard in 2013 and aims to repeat in 2014.
Beyond the traditional title contenders are several teams that have established themselves as perennial powerhouses and plan to make deep runs in the 2014 Men’s Team Championships. The University of Rochester brings a strong recruiting class, mixed with experienced upperclassmen, aiming to improve on their preseason No. 5 ranking, and No. 7 Franklin and Marshall will look to challenge top teams coming off a win over No. 8 Cornell in their final match of last season. Showing the biggest improvement of any top team last year, St. Lawrence University hopes to build on a school-record finish of No. 6 in 2012-2013 led by 2013 College Individual Champion Amr Khaled Khalifa.