Flashback to three years ago, the first U.S. Open to be held here at Drexel, and former world number one John White, who had just been appointed Drexel head coach, lost out in an entertaining qualifying first round match to Saurav Ghosal.
At that time Drexel were just starting their first year in the CSA (College Squash Association) leagues, and as White said: “when I first arrived it was a case of asking around if anyone had played squash before, and if they said yes they were on the team!”
Back then Drexel started at the bottom, ranked #33 in the boys and #38 in the girls. Since then they’ve come a long way, and as their fourth season gets under way in November, they’ll start with the boys at #16 and the girls at #14.
“It’s been a good progression,” says White, “and we’re definitely hoping for top ten positions for both teams this season, we have some new recruits which will strengthen us throughout the team.”
Over the regular season they’ll play around 20 matches, some against the Ivy League giants and some against Division 1, 2 and 3 colleges (Drexel are classed as Division 1) culminating in the finals next February. The longest trip will be to Williams, a northward drive of some six and a half hours.
They’re certainly dedicated – in the pre-season training the girls start most day at 6.30am, with the boys rolling in nearer to 8am. They all have studies to complete too, lest we forget.
For White himself this year’s U.S Open was similar to that 2011 opening – an exciting, well-supported and agonisingly close first round defeat, this time to young Hong Kong star Leo Au, who went on to reach the second round of the main draw.
Still, he can console himself with the fact that his charges have come a long way since then …