SCH sophomore Francesca Fabiani eyes up a backhand. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The visiting Penn Charter girls ruled the higher rungs on the team ladders in last Tuesday’s squash match at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, but the host Lions claimed victory in positions five through nine to pull out a 5-4 win over the Quakers.

SCH evened up its season record at 3-3 with the successful outing, while Charter slipped to 1-6.

The shift several years ago to the nine-player (collegiate) format from the old scholastic standard of seven has worked against the Quakers this season, as there is a sharp divide in the middle of the line-up between primary squash players and athletes whose main athletic interests lie elsewhere. Several teams who lack the top talent of the Quakers have been able to beat them by having experienced squash players farther down on the depth chart.

SCH proved to be one of those teams. Going in, the Lions could hope to pull off an upset at one of the top four spots, but they knew they must win five-through-nine, and did.

With four odd-number bouts on the courts to begin with (three through nine) Springside Chestnut Hill got out to a 3-1 lead in the team score. The Lions’ Nina Nalle, who recently broke into the varsity line-up, defeated fellow sophomore Sydney Stokes, 11-7, 11-3, 11-1 in the ninth spot, while at number seven Lions senior Sam Blake was an 11-4, 11-3, 11-2 winner over visiting junior Emma Ebert.

Sophomore Courtney Hamilton gave a convincing performance in the fifth spot, topping PC junior Ryann Shaffer, 11-1, 11-2, 11-1. Charter got on the scoreboard thanks to rising freshman star Izzy Hirshberg, who already played varsity matches last year as an eighth-grader. At number three, she posted an 11-2, 11-5, 11-5 win against Lions sophomore Caroline Canning.

Hirshberg’s positioning in the third spot gives the Quakers a very solid number four in senior co-captain Amanda Roberts. Roberts, who will attend Yale University, took an 11-5, 11-0, 11-5 decision over one of the Lions’ senior co-captains, Kelly Brady. Brady will continue her career at a strong squash school, Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

The other co-captains for the two teams met in the top spot last Tuesday. Lions senior Libbie Maine won an extended opening round, 14-12. PC’s Princeton-bound Tara Harrington, who lives just a few blocks from SCH, came on to capture the next three games, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4. PC completed a sweep of the top four spots thanks to sophomore Margaux Losty, who defeated the hosts’ freshman number two, Francesca Fabiani, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9.

Meanwhile, SCH picked up a fourth victory of its own from senior number six Ellie Stout. After starting out 11-5, she got a push from PC sophomore Danielle Reisley in the next two games, but Stout prevailed in both of them, 12-10, 13-11.

At number eight, junior Hannah Baxter from the host team was engaged in a lengthy struggle with Leigh Steinberg, a Quakers tenth-grader. Baxter gained a 2-1 edge in the bout, 8-11, 11-4, 11-1, but Steinberg bounced back to take the fourth game, 11-5. Baxter, who played number one on the Lions’ tennis team this fall, captured the fifth game at 11-8 to clinch the team victory for Springside Chestnut Hill.

SCH mentor Rich Sheppard, who has coached the squad since the 2005-2006 season, said this is the first time during his tenure that the Lions have defeated the Quakers.

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