A Look Back (c. 1930 – 2013)
The history of squash at the University of Virginia begins in the early 1930s with the completion of the Astor Squash and Handball Courts. A gift from Nancy Astor, the facility was designed by Edmund Campbell and eventually came to be known simply as the Lady Astor Squash Courts. Initially connected to Memorial Gym, the structure was moved 200 yards to its current location in 1992. The Astor Squash Courts remained intact until 2004 when the structure was converted into the Astor Tennis Pavilion, which houses locker rooms and offices for the University’s tennis teams.
Although the University never fielded any official teams, the sport maintained a baseline of popularity among students, faculty, and staff, who made frequent use of the Astor Courts, as well as the Slaughter and North Grounds courts, for recreational play. In 1968, UVa alum Victor Elmaleh put the University on the squash map by becoming National Doubles Champion with his partner Victor Niederhoffer. Other notable alumni early on in the history of squash at UVa include Sandy Worthington (’78), who went on to become a top-10-ranked player in the United States, and Beth Rasin, who managed the US Women’s Squash Team for over a decade and is currently assistant director of the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions.
It was not until 2001 that sustained interest in the sport was rekindled with the founding of a dedicated club squash team. Under the direction of founding member and club president Tyler Hinckley, the team began competing as an official member of the National Intercollegiate Squash Racquets Association (NISRA, since renamed the College Squash Association (CSA)) during the 2002-2003 season. The ‘02-’03 squad finished out its inaugural season in style, winning the Chaffee Cup (Division E) Championship at the National Team Championships and ending the season ranked 34th nationally.
In 2003, Mary Whelan Lovely established a women’s club team and led the squad through the ‘03-’04 season to a final national ranking of 30. The women’s team captured their first national title in ‘05-’06, taking the Epps Cup (D Division) Championship over Haverford College. They repeated as Epps Cup Champions in ‘07-’08, a year after reaching their highest ever national ranking of 21.
2011 marked a turning point in the history of squash at UVa. After an extensive planning and review phase, the University formally announced a gift agreement with the Quantitative Foundation to fund the construction of a state-of-the-art squash facility for the UVa men’s and women’s teams. In addition to the new courts, the Quantitative Foundation also helped establish and fund the Friends of Virginia Squash, a foundation dedicated to the development and promotion of squash at UVa. With the foundation’s support, the teams were able to hire a coach, take on an expanded practice and match schedule, and create the foundation to build toward the top echelons of intercollegiate squash.
Since the ’12-’13 season, the Virginia men’s and women’s teams have set records for overall wins, individual accolades, and match attendance. And the teams are poised to achieve even greater success in the coming years under the direction of Head Coach Mark Allen.
Coach Allen, an internationally renowned player and coach, will usher the Cavaliers into a new era. And a new facility. McArthur Squash Center, the new home of the squash teams at UVa, is a truly world-class squash venue, with eleven total courts (eight glass-back singles courts, one four-wall glass show court, and two doubles courts, all constructed by ASB).
After one season under guidance of Head Coach Mark Allen, the ‘13-’14 women’s team finished with a national ranking of #25, winning the Epps Cup division of the WCSA Team Nationals. Their performance at Nationals placed the Virginia women #1 among club teams and above several well-established varsity programs. After a successful regular season, the Virginia men’s team was ranked in the top thirty for the majority of the season and picked up key 5-4 victories over Georgetown and Denison.
The Program’s Future
The squash program at the University of Virginia is one of the most exciting stories in intercollegiate and US squash. Over the past few seasons, the UVa teams have made great strides on court and off, moving up steadily in the rankings and cultivating a reputation as an organization with the capacity to bring squash into a new University and a new region. We are now poised to become one of only a few large public universities with men’s and women’s teams ranked in the top-twenty. And we don’t plan on stopping there.
Developing a world-class collegiate squash program does require financial support. And you can help. Your contribution will help us reach our goal of competing against and winning against the top echelons of the CSA. With the right support, we believe we’ll soon be standing toe-to-toe with the Ivy League teams and other perennial contenders.
We have been fortunate to have the unfailing support of the Quantitative Foundation. Through their generosity we have an amazing new facility, McArthur Squash Center, as well as an internationally renowned squash pro and teacher, Head Coach Mark Allen.
But in order to take the next step and formally establish and endow the squash programs, we need to establish a wider and more diverse donor base.
Like any well-run organization in our position we cannot rely on a single donor. So we ask that you consider making a gift to the Virginia squash teams. No donation is too small and all gifts to the Friends of Virginia Squash are tax deductible.
For more information on how you can support the teams, click here.