Bantams in Search of Fifth Conference Crown
HADLEY, Mass. – The 2011 NESCAC Women's Squash Championship takes place this weekend at Trinity's George A. Kellner Squash Center in Hartford, Conn. Four-time defending champion Trinity has earned the top seed and a first round bye and will begin its quest for a fifth NESCAC title following the completion of Friday's opening round. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches will take place at Trinity on Saturday and select consolation matches will occur at Wesleyan's Rosenbaum Squash Center. The 2011 NESCAC Women's Squash Championship will conclude on Sunday, Feb. 6, with the final taking place at 1:30 p.m.
Trinity (9-1) heads into this weekend's tournament riding a three-match winning streak, most recently earning an 8-1 victory at Cornell on Jan. 30. The Bantams' lone loss this season came at the hands of Yale just a few weeks ago, a 6-3 setback. Trinity has only faced two NESCAC foes so far this season, downing both Bates and Williams back in December by 6-3 scores. During last year's championship, the Bantams rolled to three consecutive 9-0 wins, downing Wesleyan, Middlebury, and Williams en route to the 2010 crown. In the brief four-year history of the NESCAC championship, Trinity has won 11 of 12 matches by 9-0 scores.
Trinity will face the winner of Friday's first round contest between Maine rivals Bowdoin (5-11) and Colby (7-11). The eighth-seeded Polar Bears have won four of their last five outings, including a 6-3 decision over their first round opponent on Jan. 27. The ninth-seeded Mules rebounded from their setback at Bowdoin with a 5-4 victory over Tufts on Jan. 28 and a 7-2 decision against Connecticut College on Jan. 30. At last year's championship, Bowdoin suffered a 5-4 loss in the first round to Wesleyan, while Colby advanced past Tufts 7-2 before succumbing to Williams in the quarterfinals, 9-0.
For the third time in as many years, Hamilton (7-6) will meet Connecticut College (8-10) in the first round match featuring the sixth and 11th seeds. During the 2009 tournament, the Continentals posted an 8-1 victory over the Camels before falling to Bowdoin in the quarterfinals. A year later, Hamilton earned a 9-0 win to advance to the quarterfinals but came up short to Bates. This will be the fourth time that the Continentals and the Camels have faced one another in the opening round, and all three previous meetings have gone to Hamilton. Heading into the weekend, Hamilton is 3-3 over its last six matches, losing to Williams on Sunday in its most recent match. Connecticut College will also be looking to get back into the win column after falling in its last four in what will be the first time these two have faced one another this season. The winner of Friday's match will get third-seeded Middlebury on Saturday (13-3). The Panthers have been impressive and own a 6-1 mark against NESCAC foes, the lone loss a 5-4 setback to Bates on Jan. 21. Middlebury faced both Connecticut College and Hamilton last month and came away with 9-0 victories against the two. The Panthers have reached the semifinals at each of the last two conference championships but have run into Trinity both times, falling 9-0. This year Middlebury is on the other side of the bracket from the Bantams, as the Panthers' seeding is their highest ever.
The remaining first round match features seventh-seeded Wesleyan (9-8) against No. 10 Tufts (5-10). A year ago, Wesleyan achieved its highest tournament seeding and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time ever as the eighth seed with a 5-4 win over Bowdoin in the first round. The Cardinals return this year in an even better position and look to repeat their first round success when they face the Jumbos on Friday evening. Wesleyan took the lone regular season meeting between the two back on Dec. 3 by a 9-0 score. Both teams will look to snap a losing streak when they clash on Friday evening, as the Cardinals have lost their last three outings while the Jumbos are winless in their last six. The squad that advances will take on second-seeded Williams (9-8). The Ephs gained a 9-0 victory over the Cardinals this past weekend as part of their march to the Little Three title at Amherst, but have yet to face the Jumbos this season. Williams has registered six wins against NESCAC opponents and only one loss, that to Trinity by a 6-3 score, and will have a tune-up match on Friday evening against Brown. The Ephs have reached Sunday's final every year the tournament has been held but have had difficulty getting past the Bantams in order to secure their first conference title.
Joining the top three seeds in earning a first round bye are fourth-seeded Amherst (12-5) and fifth-seeded Bates (11-8). The two teams will face one another in the quarterfinals for the second time in less than a month, as the Lord Jeffs downed the Bobcats 6-3 back on Jan. 15. Amherst has enjoyed an impressive year so far and has significant momentum heading into this weekend's tournament, recording wins in eight of its last 11 outings since beating the Bobcats. Bates has gotten hot as of late with four consecutive victories, including back-to-back 9-0 decisions last week. The Jeffs hope to move into the semifinals for the first time in tournament history, while the Bobcats have made an appearance in the semis in three of the last four years.
Complete results for the championship will be available throughout the weekend at www.nescac.com.