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Every team has its big guns--players who not only can dominate a game, but are expected to.
The Harvard women's squash team is no different. Senior Jordanna Fraiberg and junior Libby Eynon are the respective first and second seeds on the Crimson, and both have rarely failed to produce wins in their matches.
"They are the two best women I've coached," Harvard Coach Bill Doyle said. "They are both very athletic, aggressive, and focused."
Behind the efforts of Fraiberg and Eynon, the Crimson have started off the season 3-0, with victories over Brown, Trinity and Franklin & Marshall.
Both players got hooked on squash at an early age from watching family members play the sport. Eventually, they honed their skills at squash clubs.
"I've been playing since I was 10," Fraiberg said. "My family belonged to an athletic club. My brother started playing in tournaments, and I'd go along to watch him. So I said, 'I might as well play too.'"
"I've played for nine years," Eynon said. "My dad played at a club, and then I started, too. In Cincinnati, they don't have high school squash teams, so I took lessons from the squash pro at the club."
Another thing that they had in common was their opponents. Specifically, they always played males.
"I grew up playing with Neal Tew, who was a captain [for Harvard's men's squash team] last year," Eynon said. "There were about seven of us at the club, and I was the only girl."
Growing up in Montreal, Fraiberg experienced the same difficulties.
"There weren't many women to play at my level," Fraiberg said. "I would always play men better than me."
While they were still in high school, Fraiberg and Eynon sharpened their skills in junior tournaments.
"I played in the junior worlds for the Canadian team," she said. "I was exposed to a high level of squash, and when I came back, I was playing really well and won the nationals."
"I've played in junior tournaments and for the U.S. world team," Eynon said. "The more you play, the more experience you get.
"In tournaments I would often play [sophomore] Blair Clark, who is now my teammate, and I practice against her every day."
New experiences awaited both Eynon and Fraiberg when they came to Harvard, as both tried to get used to playing on an actual squash team for the first time in their lives.
"I didn't apply to many schools--only Harvard and Yale," Fraiberg said. "I decided to come to Harvard because I knew the coach, and I had been here a couple times before, and I liked the place.
"I was playing number one [seed] from the start, so [freshman year] wasn't as intimidating as it could have been. Doing team play was different, instead of practicing on my own. I had to conform to team practice times and rules. But it's nice to have a team behind you."
Eynon attributes her success at Harvard to the coaching staff.
"I came here mostly because of academics," Eynon said. "And I couldn't have gotten better coaching anywhere else. We have Jack Barnaby ['32], who is an amazing man--a legend. He knows a lot about strategy."
Eynon also plays for the Harvard women's soccer team, but being a female Bo Jackson doesn't bother her.
"It's not too bad of a transition," she said. "Growing up I'd always play about five sports, so it's not too bad. The toughest problem is mental--once the [fall] soccer season is over, it's like a relief, because soccer is so demanding mentally."
Fraiberg, on the other hand, devotes all of her athletic ability to squash. But that is not her only activity.
"Last year, I took off eight months to go to India," Fraiberg said. "I wanted to go somewhere completely different--away from squash and athletics. There were 15 of us in the program, and we spent most of the class time amongst ourselves. And we would also go on excursions into villages. It was really informal.
"But when we came back, I got sick for weeks, and missed a few tournaments, and had trouble getting back into squash."
Softball: A New Beginning
This season marks a new beginning for women's collegiate squash. The teams voted to change from hard balls to soft balls, which means different court dimensions and a different type of game.
"I grew up on soft balls--they only really play hard in the U.S.," Fraiberg said. "It's good for high level players. [With soft balls] it is more challenging, more tactical. It also lessens the chance of flukey shots, so the good players will win."
"It's not a bad transition for me," Eynon said. "I played both growing up. Many people think that only hard [ball games] are fun, but I actually think soft [balls] is a fun game--you have to run your opponent."
Soft balls or hard balls, Eynon and Fraiberg are obliterating their opponents with ease.
"Jordanna tends to play to wear down an opponent," Doyle said. "Libby is a more attacking player.
"There is no one fitter in the country than Jordanna. She showed that in the Franklin & Marshall match--she just wore down Margo Green, who is one of the better players in the country."
Now, as February rolls around, the squash team is bearing down for the brunt of the season, after which the season ending tournaments are held.
"I think that in early season scrimmages we didn't do as well as we would have liked," Fraiberg said. "But I don't think that's an indication of our team--everyone is still getting used to soft balls."
And if Jordanna Fraiberg and Libby Eynon are any indication of this team, another national championship shouldn't be out of reach.
NCAA Men's Hockey Poll 1. Michigan (26) 21-1-1 260 2. BU 14-5-0 223 3. N. Michigan 15-6-1 180 4. HARVARD 11-3-2 168 5. Lake Sup. St. 16-7-1 160 6. UNH 15-5-1 116 7. Michigan St. 13-6-3 75 8. Colorado Coll. 14-6-2 64 9. Wisconsin 13-8-1 52 10. Northeastern 13-5-2 38
Compiled by the Troy (N.Y.) Record, with first-place votes in parentheses, records and total points.
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