Squash wins 37

The Macintosh first hit stores 36 years ago. Western has won the OUA men’s squash championship for the last 37.

The men’s and women’s squash teams competed this past weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the Ontario University Athletics title. The men won all four games they played en route to gold, while the women went 4-1 and came home with the bronze.

The men dominated their tournament. They won group stage matches against Brock University and the University of Waterloo, before beating rival Queen’s University 7-0 in the semifinals and winning a rematch against Waterloo in the finals 6-1. 

“Our guys just played amazing” said Men’s head coach James Van Staveren. “They really topped off a great season.”

Western’s men have been top dogs in the OUA for quite some time. They attract the top players across Canada because Western offers them a unique opportunity: the chance to play for a Canadian University against American schools.

The Western men play in the OUA but also play in the College Squash Association, where they are the only Canadian school in the league. They currently rank 10th in the association with a 9-2 record.  

“The CSA really drives our program” says Van Staveren.

Only at Western can student-athletes reap the benefits of cheap tuition in Canada while playing top competition across the border in the US. 

“The location of being in Canada gives the financial advantage for students to be able to afford university” says Van Staveren. “Colleges are very expensive for foreign students in the US.”

Van Staveren made it clear that growing the game of squash is a top priority.

“It’s great for squash to have people play for many years” says Van Staveren, putting the growth of the game over an even playing field. Western can't have students play for more than four years because they play in the US, but other Canadian schools can.

Not only didn’t they get the MVP award but the Mustangs came home with only two of the six all-star awards, despite their total domination.

"[Other schools finding success is] so good for OUA squash and we want to see as many awards go out to them as possible," said Van Staveren. "We don't want to see a sea of purple because it is just not what we came to do." 

On the women’s side, the Mustangs dominated early matchups against the University of Guelph, McMaster University, and the University of Toronto. They lost a tight one to Waterloo in the semis by a score of 4-3, before winning 6-1 against Toronto for the bronze.

“We came silver last year, so our goal was to make it onto the podium again this year” said head coach Holly Delavigne. 

With most players in their second or third year, the team has plenty of room to grow in the future.

“We have a lot of players that are going to be continuing on in the next few years” says Coach Lavigne. [We are] just kind of happy to keep building on their skills and see where that takes us in the new few years as they kind of move up into their third and fourth year.”

First-year athlete Emme McKenna had an exemplary rookie season with the Mustangs squash team.

“She’s been a really solid addition to our lineup this year,” said coach Lavigne. 

The freshman already is their fourth ranked player, and she won all five of her matches without dropping a game all weekend.

“We have a lot of players that are going to be continuing on in the next few years” says Coach Delavigne. "[We are] just kind of happy to keep building on their skills and see where that takes us in the new few years as they kind of move up into their third and fourth year.”

This is prime recruiting season for the women's team, with several future players waiting on an acceptance from Western to join the team next season. 

"We definitely have a few potential recruits that could add to our lineup," said Delavigne. "Hopefully, we'll keep pushing our way up." 

Unlike the men, this is the end of the women’s squash season as they don’t play in the CSA.

The Mustang men will be at Harvard University on February 28th competing for the CSA championship.

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Jordan Bloom is a Sports Editor for Volume 114 of The Gazette. Email him at Jordan.bloom@westerngazette.ca or find him on twitter @JBloomSports

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