Squash teams grapples with major changes to program

At the Rivers School, the girls varsity squash team defeated Squash Busters Lawrence on Saturday, Dec. 7 in their first match of the year, a sign of a successful upcoming season.

Contributed by Steve Lantos

At the Rivers School, the girls varsity squash team defeated Squash Busters Lawrence on Saturday, Dec. 7 in their first match of the year, a sign of a successful upcoming season.

After losing 14 out of the 20 members from last year, the boys varsity squash team will have to work towards building the team once again. The girls varsity squash team is hoping to have an even better season than last year.

Started in 2015 by head coach science teacher Steve Lantos, the squash team has become one of the best in the nation, beating private schools such as Buckingham Browne & Nichols Upper, Nobles, Winsor and others. The boys team is grappling with the loss of two nationally-ranked players and many others. Meanwhile, the girls team hopes to continue and further their success from last year.

According to senior and captain Bella Viola, the girls team has honed in on their skills over the course of the previous year’s season.

“Last year we stepped up our game. Our captains were seniors and they knew what they were doing, and the girls themselves started being a lot more competitive in a healthy way,” Viola said.

The team is planning on practicing differently this year, as well as preparing themselves further for their games this year, Viola said.

“We’re going to try and organize the practices so that there’s a little more conditioning. We really want to keep encouraging those challenge matches to make the team fit for our actual games,” Viola said.

Viola is optimistic for the season and enjoys the camaraderie that comes with competing competitively.
“I just think it’s super healthy to have a group of girls where you do things together,” Viola said. “It’s a great experience for both the boys and the girls to bond. We just get out there, and we get to have these experiences playing crazy teams from Philadelphia and Connecticut and it kind of feels like college.”

According to junior Henry Kessler, squash is a fun sport. While he is saddened by the loss of seniors, he believes it is an opportunity to grow.

“There should be a strong dynamic this year because with the majority of the team leaving, there’s going to be a bunch of new people on the team,” Kessler said. “We’re just trying to give everything we have and not consider it a loss from what we had last year but try and make the best of it and have fun doing what we love.”

For Kessler, along with the actual training, the bonds and connections among teammates are also important for the team as a whole.

“Strong connections between each individual player will help the team succeed as a whole,” Kessler said. “Squash is sort of a lesser-known sport, so we have an opportunity to create the culture we want and spread it to make sure people know what squash is all about.”

While the boys team may have lost many of their top players, the girls team is looking forward to an exciting season. Coach and science teacher Steve Lantos is especially optimistic about the girls team’s season.

“I think the girls will only be better. The returning players know the game. They’re competitive, they know how matches work, so there’s not going to be anything new except that they’re a year older,” Lantos said.

For junior Varun Bose, although last year’s seniors are gone, he believes the team’s culture and connections can live on this year.

“I think the chemistry between us was really good,” Bose said. “The seniors added a lot of energy every game they were there. We can’t replace them, but we can try our best every game. So it’s the lower classmen who will still be here. Hopefully, they invite their friends to play, who invite more friends to play.”

Lantos expects that the dynamic of both the boys and the girls team to shift from last year’s season.

“The boys [last year] had a real kind of self-motivation and drive to play and it was very strong. I think that the girls will overtake that,” Lantos said. “They know the game. They know how the matches work and I think they’re going to be a driving force for the teams overall. I’m going to put my money on them.”