Ephs Headed for NESCAC Tournament Final After Defeating Hamilton and Middlebury

Julia Ward '21
Julia Ward '21

HARTFORD, CT - On an eventful Saturday afternoon in Hartford, the Ephs proved their worth in the NESCAC Tournament; finally getting the opportunity to play Middlebury again after their heartbreaking loss to the Panthers earlier in the season. 

In their first match of the day, the Ephs faced off against Hamilton College. Using a three-court system, sophomore Sarah Willwerth (#3), junior Anna Nicholson (#6), and sophomore Adrienne Conza (#9) led the charge for the Ephs in the first wave of play. All three convincingly outplayed their opponents and won in three games. Feeding off of this momentum, senior captain Esther Baek (#2), sophmore Abby LeBlanc (#5), and freshman Alex Pear (#8) were on next for the Ephs. Once again, all three were triumphant in their charge and put another round of three wins on the board. Baek and LeBlance toppled their opponents in three games. Pear had a bit of a tougher time closing out the match, but after dropping the second game, she was able to successfully regroup to win her match in four games. Sophomore Julia Ward (#1), junior Melissa Swann (#4), and freshman Kathryn Wright (#7) closed the match out for the Ephs. Their opponents were unable to keep up with their beautiful shot choices and quick 'T' movement and each were defeated in a clean three games. The final match score was 9-0 to the Ephs.

After a short break, the Ephs were back on court to face off against their biggest NESCAC rival: Middlebury. The Ephs had been waiting for this match since early January when Middlebury upset them. Since their heartbreaking defeat earlier in the season, the Ephs had gained tunnel visioxn towards their upcoming Middlebury match and had grown obsessive over seeking their revenge. For the Ephs, there was no doubt in their mind that they were going to finally get the opportunity to beat Middlebury. This was their goal all season, and there was nothing they wanted more than to prove to themselves and to Middlebury that Williams deserved the spot of #2 in the NESCAC.

Fully revved up and ready to go, sophomore Sarah Willwerth (#3), junior Anna Nicholson (#6), and sophomore Adrienne Conza (#9) led the Ephs into battle. Willwerth immediately seized control of the 'T' and her opponent was unsuccessful in her attempts to get her off it. Willwerth then used her brilliant 'T' position to move her opponent around the court until her opponent folded in a convincing 3-0 victory. Nicholson was unstoppable with her fast movement to the front of the court and amazing drop shots. Although coming out a little nervous and losing the first game 11-5, Nicholson waged a furious comeback and defeated her opponent 11-9 in the fourth. Conza also had a tight four-game match with her opponent. In a back and forth battle, Conza's Panther opponent eventually edged her out 11-9 in the fourth. After the first round of matches, the match score was 2-1 to the Ephs and the next round of matches would be critical for sustaining the Ephs' momentum.

Excited to continue the Ephs' stride, senior captain Esther Baek (#2), sophomore Abby LeBlanc (#5), and freshman Alex Pear (#8) were on next for the Ephs. Baek proved in her match that the mental aspect of squash is just as important as the physical. With every single game finsihing in over time (13-11, 12-10, 12-10), Baek's match could have easily gone either way. However, there was no way that her Middlebury opponent cared about winning as much as Baek did in her final NESCAC Tournament. A true force to be reckoned with, Baek didn't drop a single game despite the close game scores. LeBlanc played her Panther opponent very closely in a neck and neck five-gamer, but her stellar fitness paid off and she was able to outlast her opponent 11-7 in the fifth game. Pear also played a hard fought five games with her opponent, but was evenutally edged out 11-4 in the fifth. After two rounds of matches, the Ephs were leading the match 4-2 and only needed one more win on the baord to finally prove that they could beat Middlebury. 

Sophomore Julia Ward (#1), junior Melissa Swann (#4), and freshman Kathryn Wright (#7) were last on for the Ephs to get the job done. Ward was victorious in her #1 position and secured a match win for the Ephs, beating her opponent 11-8 in the fifth. Swann had a nailbiting five-game match with her Panther opponent, but was able to come out on top and won 11-4 in the fifth. Wright also played a close five games with her opponent, but her opponent unfortunately came out stronger in the fifth and won 11-2. Already celebrating, the Ephs had done what they had been dreaming about for over a month: beating Middlebury! The final match score was 6-3 to the Ephs in a truly epic battle.

Eph head coach Zafi Levy had this to say after the match: "We've improved a lot since we played Middlebury last so I'm happy that the results showed our improvement. We will probably play Middlebury once again at Nationals so we need to learn from this match and feed off of this momentum when we face them for a tie breaker match."

The Ephs take on the Trinity Bantams in the NESCAC finals Feb. 10 at noon in Hartford, CT.

Vs. Hamilton:

1WS Ward, Julia H. 4.53167 Zonis, Charlotte J. 3.84718 11-6,11-1,11-5 Williams College C
2WS Baek, Esther  4.49699 Grip, Megan  3.76431 11-6,11-5,11-6 Williams College C
3WS Willwerth, Sarah  4.33407 Stern, Caitlin H. 3.75236 11-4,11-3,11-5 Williams College C
4WS Swann, Melissa  4.26375 Soloway, Sydney A 3.59088 11-0,11-0,11-3 Williams College C
5WS LeBlanc, Abigail  4.35303 Guenther, Liesl L. 3.58811 11-2,11-6,11-7 Williams College C
6WS Nicholson, Anna  4.12724 Jadow, Lindsay Jadow  3.56994 11-5,11-3,11-4 Williams College C
7WS Wright, Kathryn A. 4.10801 Struthers, Eleanor  3.57492 11-3,11-2,11-3 Williams College C
8WS Pear, Alexandra  3.96709 Sakheim, Madison E. 3.57402 11-7,4-11,11-3,11-7 Williams College C
9WS Conza, Adrienne  4.17122 Beecher, Jean J. 3.17521 11-3,11-3,11-1 Williams College C
10WS Bower, Elizabeth  3.87703 Wolf, Eleonor  2.78566 11-1,11-3,11-3 Williams College C

Vs. Middlebury:

1WS Ward, Julia H. 4.53167 kuijpers, beatrijs  4.50125 11-7,11-7,9-11,11-8 Williams College C
2WS Baek, Esther  4.49699 Dowling, Ideal  4.3025 13-11,12-10,12-10 Williams College C
3WS Willwerth, Sarah  4.33407 Comai, Alexa L. 4.20587 11-5,11-6,11-4 Williams College C
4WS Swann, Melissa  4.26375 Schaus, Virginia L. 4.25969 11-9,2-11,12-14,11-9,11-4 Williams College C
5WS LeBlanc, Abigail  4.35303 Madden, Natalie L 4.22485 9-11,11-9,12-14,11-4,11-7 Williams College C
6WS Nicholson, Anna  4.12724 Glassie, Anne F. 4.10997 5-11,11-7,11-9,11-9 Williams College C
7WS Wright, Kathryn A. 4.10801 Davis, Gwen A 4.09228 8-11,11-6,8-11,11-4,11-2 Middlebury College C
8WS Pear, Alexandra  3.96709 Lowitt, Natasha  4.11106 9-11,15-13,5-11,11-5,11-4 Middlebury College C
9WS Conza, Adrienne  4.17122 Chugh, Mira  4.03783 11-7,11-9,6-11,11-9 Middlebury College C