Charlottesville, VA – Each season the Virginia women’s squash team presents two awards: Team MVP and Most Improved Player. This year’s Most Improved Player, as selected by the UVA coaching staff, is third year Isabel Stack. Members of the program staff announced the winners and runners up for each award with brief speeches at the end-of-season Award Banquet. The text below is a reprint of the remarks accompanying the Most Improved Player presentation, with minor revisions.
The first runner up for the 2017 Most Improved Award is Carey Danforth, who is also last year’s MVP and a team co captain. Carey was swarmed by some exceptionally talented first year players this season but she proved more than up to the task and she used her experience and tenacious will to come out on top. It’s never a good thing to be in Carey’s “sights,” as she proved by reclaiming the number one position after starting the season at #2. Her resurgence can be traced to two principal improvements: court coverage and pace. She gradually pushed further and further up the court and developed power from the front court, particularly when she forced loose returns from her opponents. It was truly fantastic to see our players push one another this season, and the way that Carey responded was particularly striking.
Fourth year and co captain Charlotte Searle is our second finalist for Most Improved. Over the past four years, Charlotte has made enormous strides as a player. And, at the same time, our squad has become that much stronger, meaning that Charlotte might not always get to show off all that she has achieved during official matches. But believe me, her coaches have noticed and we think the world of Charlotte for the dedication she has modeled and her absolutely fantastic attitude. As with Isabel, we hope that Charlotte’s example will resonate with our younger players to show what fortitude and perseverance look like.
Our Most Improved Player for the ’16-’17 season is Isabel Stack. Isabel posted a 4-5 record this year for a 44% win percentage. We were extraordinarily impressed with how Isabel responded to the challenge of a vastly stronger women’s team ladder. With four new first years coming into the top nine, Isabel nevertheless managed to move ahead of her ladder position from last season in the first half of this year before traveling abroad for the spring semester. This was largely due to her remarkable improvement in covering the court angles. She was not only chasing after balls she might have left last season, she was retrieving them and punishing them this year. When you see a player put in so much effort and work, as a coach you are just inclined to root for that player to get the rewards they deserve. And while that doesn’t always happen, when it does, it makes you feel great. Needless to say, we felt great for Isabel this year, as she earned every bit of improvement she gained. And, as with our other finalists, we hope her hard work to improve provides a model for all of our players this summer!