It was an overtime finish fit for the lights of Stanford Stadium. After a nail-biting series of tiebreaks, five-game comebacks and squandered match balls, Stanford squash defeated Ivy League powerhouse Princeton 5-4 in the third-place playoffs of last year’s National Championships to finish the season with a program-best No. 3 ranking.
The win, Stanford’s first over Princeton since 2009, continued the Cardinal’s impressive ascendancy through the ranks of college squash as they breached the top three of a league traditionally dominated by East Coast dynasties Harvard and Trinity.
This year, Stanford has momentum on their side as they look to build upon their historic season. The Cardinal return six players from their record-setting campaign, including previous All-America selections sophomore Elena Wagenmans and senior Casey Wong. Talented freshmen Cassandra Ong, Samantha Moadel and Haley Aube will look to play key roles from the outset as well, adding to the strength of a competitive lineup that has won many of its matches on depth in the lower positions.
“I’m really excited about the team this year,” said head coach Mark Talbott. “I think it’s the strongest team we’ve ever had. The three freshmen are great — they’ve added a lot to the depth of our team — and our top three or four have gotten even stronger than last year.”
Stanford will push for an even higher finish this season against a loaded schedule that features the entirety of the remaining teams ranked in the top nine. The Cardinal, ranked fourth in the preseason, open their season this weekend in Philadelphia with a tough slate of matches against No. 3 Princeton, No. 7 Drexel and No. 8 Pennsylvania.
In January, the Cardinal will host No. 17 Tufts in a rare home match before embarking on another grueling road stretch to battle the likes of No. 2 Trinity, Ivy League stalwarts No. 1 Harvard and No. 6 Columbia and perennial rival No. 5 Yale.
The road to the National Championships will begin with Saturday’s marquee rematch against Princeton, with critical postseason seedings at stake. Edged out by the third-ranked Tigers in this year’s preseason rankings, the Cardinal will have pride on the line as they seek to consolidate their progress from last year.
“We’ve got three tough matches in 24 hours,” said Talbott. “I think we have a good chance to win all three and I’m hoping we do, but they’re all going to be pretty close. Hopefully we can maintain our position and remain in the top three.”
After a long preseason on the Farm, the Cardinal are rested and eager to begin competition.
“We’ve been training for eight weeks straight and haven’t had an opportunity to compete yet, so we’re all really excited for the weekend,” said senior captain Casey Wong.
No longer a dark horse team but an established force at the front of college squash, Stanford enters the season with high hopes and the talent and experience to back them. The Cardinal play their first match on Friday against No. 8 Pennsylvania at 9:30 a.m. before going head-to-head with Drexel at 3:00 p.m. PT.
Contact Daniel Wu at dwu21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.