Does winning ever get old? Not to the New England Patriots — or to players from the Harvard women’s squash team who fit right in in a region known for champions, with 12 titles in the past five years.
If anything, the team wants to win now more than ever.
“Winning is a really great feeling,” said Maddie Chai ’21, one of 13 players on the team. “But it also motivates you to just keep winning.”
In the past five years, the women’s squash team has racked up five straight national championships, four Ivy League titles, and three individual national championships, all while going undefeated in 65 straight team matches. The streak dates back to 2015.
This year, their domination of the College Squash Association was total. In squash, each of 14 team matches is made up of nine five-game individual matches. No one this season lost any individual matches, making the final score of each team match 9–0.
“You want to keep the streak going, especially now that it’s happened for five years,” Chai said. And while that mentality adds an extra dimension of pressure, the team has the resilience, system, and culture to become stronger for it, she said.
Mike Way, the Gregory Lee ’87 and Russell Ball ’88 Endowed Coach for Squash, called the run an incredible accomplishment. Making it even more impressive is the nature of the game, he added. Squash is an incredibly fast-paced sport played with a hollow rubber ball inside a four-walled room. The objective, as in tennis, is to get the ball past the opposing player. In squash, though, they are standing next to you instead of across.
“Because the ball is contained, the rallies are much longer,” Way said. “It’s harder to hit outright winners. And with the longer rallies, it becomes very much an attritional game.”
To win, players essentially wear each other down. An average individual match runs about an hour but can go longer, even up to two hours. To make sure players have the stamina, one of the major training components of the program focuses on team fitness.