A senior on the Virginia women’s squash team, Lois Lo (Hong Kong) reflects on the changes she’s seen since the program was added as a varsity sport following her freshman season in 2017. Lo also discusses the impact that COVID-19 has had on her hometown of Hong Kong and on her senior year at UVA. This summer, Lo is scheduled to work for Barings, an asset management firm in Charlotte, N.C., as a macroeconomic and geopolitical research intern.
Q: Where have you been staying at the moment? Have you been able to return to Hong Kong or do you plan on staying in the United States until things calm down?
Lo: I have been staying in Charlottesville. Considering the 12-hour time difference between Hong Kong and Charlottesville, I decided to stay to make it easier to attend my live classes. I also didn’t want to risk not being able to come back to the States if I leave given my summer internship here.
Q: We hope you and your family are safe. How has this impacted your family and your hometown of Hong Kong?
Lo: Thankfully, my family in Hong Kong has been staying safe. As for my city’s response, having dealt with SARS back in 2003, Hong Kong people are definitely proceeding cautiously and responsibly. The city is further along in the timeline than the U.S. but has seen a second wave of cases after many returned from abroad. In no way is it back to normal but some restaurants and public places have opened back up while requiring people to practice social distancing.
Q: As a senior, your class is the last to have competed as a club team. Looking back, what was it like to go through the transition from a club sport to a varsity program? 
Lo: It was a lot of things – I remember feeling excited, honored and grateful.
I am most grateful because the evolution of this team accelerated my personal growth as well. Our varsity status gives us a pipeline of phenomenal new players who have constantly challenged me. Fresh off their junior squash days, when some of them represented their countries, my younger teammates have pushed me to be a more fearless competitor. Being part of a varsity program now also means I get to be challenged by someone such as Justin (Russ – assistant strength & conditioning coach). His mentality in the weight room always reminds me of a certain expectation we should have for ourselves as varsity athletes. Every time we train, we are committed and purposeful.
While Mark (Allen) has always had the vision of what this program could be – varsity or not, having the official title of a varsity program allows coaches and players to be properly recognized for the hard work that we put in. I find it humbling that our status finally reflects our purpose to work towards achieving great things. For that, I still feel excited, honored and grateful.
Q: What differences have you seen in the program since that first season as a freshman?
Lo: Compared to my first season as a first-year, we ask more of ourselves and each other. In practice, we hold each other accountable in approaching drills purposefully and chasing every ball down. On challenge match days, there are more five-game matches than ever because we aren’t afraid to get stuck in and compete until the end. And on actual match days, we are grittier against our competition and more thoughtful with our individual preparation and our supporting of each other. There is a clear mentality switch from my first year to now when it comes to competing. As teammates, having international players on the team has pushed us to more intentionally understand what our teammates go through. The addition of international players has made us all more empathetic individuals and for that reason, stronger as a team. I think that the combination of those two things are what made possible feats such as our comeback in the Kurtz Cup final.
Q: Virginia ranked 16th at the end of your freshman year and placed last in the Kurtz Cup for that 2016 season. What was it like to conclude your collegiate career four years later with the team winning the Kurtz Cup title and finishing ninth in the CSA?
Lo: It was a phenomenal feeling because it’s a testament to what level this program is at. Earlier in the season, we lost to Columbia 5-4, shy just a few points. And they placed fifth at (CSA) Nationals. The road to top eight and top five wouldn’t be easy, but our result this year shows us that we are right there with the other top-tier teams in the country. It’s amazing to witness how far we’ve come.
Q: As a result of the COVID-19, the University has moved classes to online. How have you adjusted to the new schedule?
Lo: I try to still wake up early to get as much sunlight as possible even when I remain indoors. I also like to do home workouts in the morning to get the day started.
Q: Have you been able to stay in contact with any of your teammates and if so, how you kept in touch?
Lo: Texting and Facetiming have made it easy to stay in contact with my teammates. We also hang out on Zoom as a team. This weekend we also had our team’s award ceremony and fourth-year recognition virtually to properly celebrate our season despite the circumstances.
Q: What have you been doing to help pass the time?
Lo: School work has been keeping me productive and my days purposeful. But in my free time, I have been picking up a new language, enjoying podcasts on the news and policies, and discovering new music and movies.
Q: Do you have any plans for after graduation? Are you looking to go into a specific field?
Lo: I will be staying in Charlottesville for another year doing the M.S. in Commerce program at McIntire. In the short-term, I am looking into management consulting as well as product management in the technology space, especially fintech and the intersection of policy and tech.
Q: Do you have any advice for the incoming squash athletes?
Lo: Everyone on the team is there to support and challenge each other. Lean into both of those aspects even when it gets tough! Invest your time into building relationships with your teammates and coaching staff. I promise you it will pay dividends.
Q: Do you have a message you would like to share with UVA fans during this time?
Lo: Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy! We will all be back together sooner than we know it. Go Hoos!
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