The University of Virginia squash program returned to competition in the 2021-2022 seasons and made up for lost time after a full season off due to the COVID pandemic. The Virginia women (14-6) trekked upward to their highest finish in the national rankings (#7), qualifying for the Howe Cup, the National Championship A Draw, for the first time in program history. The Cavalier women recorded their first win in the division with a 6-3 win over Columbia in the 7 / 8 playoff. The Virginia men (12-8) picked up their third straight conference championship and returned to the Potter Cup (men’s A draw), with aspirations of equalling or even surpassing the fifth-place finish they attained in 2020. Co-captain Will Holey recorded UVA’s first ever point against eventual champions Harvard in the opening round. But after falling to Trinity College and Drexel University by 5-4 scorelines, the Cavaliers finished at #8 in the national rankings.
In addition to the collective achievements made by the men’s and women’s teams, several players from both earned individual accolades. Fourth year and team co-captain Emma Jinks was a finalist for the Betty Richey Award, an honor bestowed annually recognizing the College Squash Association’s Female Athlete of the Year; she also took a spot as second-team All MASC. She was joined on the team by Meagan Best, Maria Moya, Olivia Walsh (all first team), Sydney Maxwell, and Maureen Foley (both second team). Best was named the MASC rookie of the year and was the first UVA women’s player to earn a spot as a first-team All American.
The dynamic duo for the Cavalier men, Aly Hussein and Omar El Torkey, continued to impress on the conference and national stage. Both Hussein and El Torkey picked up first-team all conference nods, as well as slots on the second-team All American list. Hussein was also named the MASC Player of the Year. Joining Hussein and El Torkey on the all-conference sheet were Taha Dinana, Cullen Little, and Myles McIntyre, all of whom placed on the second team.
When the teams reassembled in April for their annual Awards Day, members of the coaching staff and team captains offered some final thoughts on the season and the shape and spirit of the program as a whole.
Head coach Mark Allen reflected that, “After 21 months without official competition, I learned that while competition might not be everything, it is the driving force behind everything. There is always value in exercise, but sports are so much more than that alone, precisely because they are competitive. It’s not something I really thought too deeply about before, because in 45 years of playing and coaching the next match was always just around the corner. But I have learned now that just playing squash is not enough. And whether it’s a nail biting, come from behind win against Cornell, or even the narrowest of losses against Trinity, either way it really is competition that makes the hard work doable and worthwhile and the sport so enjoyable for everyone, players and coaches alike. All of the experiences–the long bus journeys together, sharing meals after the highs of a win, commiserating after a hard loss, being in the trenches and coaching between games, –these are what truly matter. They make up all the time that I get to spend with 28 extraordinary young men and women and they are the reasons I count myself so incredibly lucky to coach here at UVA.”
And the men’s and women’s captains looked back on their experiences, concluding, “We are so unbelievably proud of every single person on this team. Thank you all for the work you have put in to ensure that this team keeps improving, not only when it comes to what we do on the court, but also to who we are and what we do in all phases here at UVA. Each of you has contributed to making these past four years a constant highlight reel in our lives. We love you guys.”