Two young squash teams — one building, the other rebuilding — met at the Westchester Country Club courts January 31.
By Mitch Silver
Two young squash teams — one building, the other rebuilding — met at the Westchester Country Club courts January 31. The one that’s building a reputation for itself, Riverdale Country School, came away with a victory over the even younger Gryphons of Holy Child.
After losing five seniors to graduation, Coach Kat Bhayani has fielded a mostly inexperienced Holy Child squad this winter. “We knew we’d take our lumps,” he said. “Just getting the girls accustomed to our crazy practice schedule — the only court time we can get in-season is at 6 in the morning — well, what can I say?” He smiled. “They’re teen-agers.”
Across the hallway, Falcons coach Gaspar Epstein spoke of the progress his girls have made. “We didn’t have a program two years ago. We didn’t win a match last year. A win today will give us five going into Nationals in Philadelphia on the 7th.”
With four championship, glass-walled courts at WCC the Gryphons’ began with Christina Casino at No. 2, Gaby Arnavat at 4, Caitlin Webers at 6, and Fiona Aranson at 7. Collectively, they went down to defeat in straight games.
Then it was time for top-seeded Millie Cavicchio, No. 3 Catherine Stolberg and No. 5 Caroline O’Neill. While Cavicchio made her U.S. Squash-recognized opponent Natasha Lowitt earn her victory on the number-one court, O’Neill was also dropping her match. Which left only Stolberg still on the hardwood with a chance to get Holy Child on the scorecard.
After a methodical 11-6 first-game win over the Falcons’ Jacqueline Laret, Stolberg’s powerful tennis-style overhand serve, something she only recently incorporated into her game, gave her several aces early in the second. But down 9-4, Laret took heart, reeling off four straight points to make it 9-8.
By now, all the other players, done with their matches, were watching tensely along with coaches and parents as Laret hefted the ball to serve. Would she tie the match? Was Holy Child to be shut out on the afternoon?
It was not to be. Stolberg niftily whacked the serve back for an unplayable point and she went on to take the game, 11-8. She then took the third and the match, 11-7. Amazingly for such a tightly contested contest, Stolberg never trailed at any point during the nearly hour-long struggle.
Later, Bhayani was philosophical. “We’re teaching the girls what everyone teaches at Holy Child: do your best, both as a player and a human being. And they’re great human beings.”
Then the tired players and happy coach got on the bus for the short hop back to campus. They’d have to be back, after all, at six in the morning.