The Ins and Outs of SEM Squash

What is squash? What are the rules? How do you play?

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In, Out, Up, Down, Fault, Double bounce, double hit, let, stroke, no let. What is squash?

What is the history of SEM Squash?

Yearbook page from the first SEM squash team back in 2005. Betsey Bloom’08, assistant coach, pictured here

Buffalo Seminary founded its team in the 2004-2005 school year.

Philip Barth has been the coach of the squash team for the past 8 years. The team usually consists of 10-15 girls. In 2009, the Bassett Squash Courts were built; previously, the girls played at the Saturn Club. The squash team was created in 2007, which Betsy Bloom’08, the current assistant coach, as a member. SEM’s team has traveled to US High School Team Championships for eight years; in 2015 and 2016, the SEM team won Division 5.

In 2015, senior captains, Alexa Rosen ’15 and Madison Frank ’15, lead the team to its first national level victory. The girls traveled to Hartford, Connecticut. On Friday, February 6, 2015, the team played Brearley School and won 5-2. The teams wins came from Cara DeRose ’18 (2), Isabelle Schlehr ’17 (3), Alexa Rosen ’15 (5), Anna Fretz ’16 (6), and Kendyl Kratzer ’16 (7). The girls on Saturday played the New Canaan High School A team. The team won 7-0! The team played their final opponents at 8 pm on Saturday. The girls played the School of the Holy Child and won 6-1. Kaitlin Hughes ’16 had a tough loss against number 1 seed. The final team the girls were supposed to play left the tournament a day early. The St. Andrew’s School left due to weather conditions. The 2014-2015 team brought home the first Girls Division V win!!

In 2016, senior captains, Anna Fretz ’16 and Kaitlin Hughes ’16, hoped to bring home another win. The team traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On Friday, February 12, 2016, the team had a narrow win against Portsmouth Abbey. The girls won 4-3 with wins coming from Cara (2), Isabelle(3), Anna(4) and Kendyl (5). On Saturday, after watching the Division 1 players, the girls played Germantown Friends School JV team. The girls won 6-1 with wins coming from Cara (2), Isabelle (3), Anna (4), Kendyl (5), Lara (6), and Clare (7). On Sunday, the team played Lancaster Country Day School in the finals! The girls won 6-1. Everyone won except for Lara Sherris ’17, who had a tough loss in four games. The team won the 2016 Girls Division V!

Based on the second preliminary seeding, the girls will be in Division V again. Nardin is also currently in Division 5. The girls have played Nardin 3 times during the season. Over break on January 4th, the girls beat Nardin 4-3. On January 23, the girls loss their senior match 3-4. On Friday, January 27, the team won the tie break 4-3! On Wednesday, February 1st, the SEM team will be playing Nichols for the Girls Buffalo title. The match is at Nichols at 5:30pm!

The SEM squash team will play at Nationals in Hartford, Connecticut from February 10-12, 2017. Follow its progress in The HEAD 2017 U.S. High School Team Championships.

Follow the team on Twitter @SEM_squash!

What is the history of squash?

Squash was invented in the early 19th century in a debtors prison. The prisoners got their exercise by hitting one front wall to start. After a while, side walls were added then a back wall. The game was called “Rackets.” In Harrow school around 1830, the students played squash and noticed that the ball “squashed” when it hit the walls. The sport had a large variety of shots and required a lot of effort. Over the years, the sport has progressed to be very popular in United States, Europe, the Middle East and Egypt – squash is now played in about 185 countries.

The history of the squash racket also allowed for the game to change. The rackets first were wooden and circular in shape. But over time, these developed into more heavy duty materials and the shape changed. These changes were made to combat the wrist strains caused by hitting the ball with a lot of force. The rackets started to be made of fiberglass and aluminium then carbon, titanium and graphite. The initial round shape changed into a large teardrop shape. The new shape and material allowed for more strength and power while reducing the weight of the racket.

What does one need to play squash?

To play squash, you need a pair of clean sneakers or volleyball/squash shoes with gum rubber (unmarking, light soles), athletic wear, goggles, racket and a squash ball. Asics shoes are worn by most of the SEM team. “It’s hard to find other shoes,” explained Lara Sherris ’17. The gum rubber on the bottom of the shoes provides better traction because the courts are made of smooth wood which can be slippery. Goggles are also a necessity; the squash ball often moves very fast in the court. If the ball hit someone in the eye, they could face serious injury. Choosing a squash racket is completely up to personal preference. There are many factors including weight, balance (head light, head heavy), and tension of strings. Many different companies also sell rackets; these include Dunlop, Black Knight, Harrow, etc.

Pullquote Photo

I bought my squash racket at Dicks. Before I bought it, I almost bought a tennis racket!”

— Clare von Simson '17

Once equipped, how does one start playing squash?

This reporter recommends getting on the court and swinging the racket to get a feel. Also you need to warm the ball up before really being able to play. Also playing with a friend or family member, who knows how to play squash, is extremely helpful for beginners. Just try to hit the ball and aim for the front wall.

What does the court look like?

The SEM team plays on international singles courts. At SEM, there are two courts. The courts at SEM have wood front walls and a glass back wall. The courts can have walls made of glass, wood or paneling. The professionals play most matches on all glass courts.

Pullquote Photo

I started playing squash because my dad played. When I was five years old, my dad signed me up for lessons. ”

— Cara DeRose'18

Chart explaining the referee’s decision

What are the basic rules?

For a shot to be in, the ball needs to have hit the racket and the front wall. The ball can hit the side and back wall on the way. But if the ball hits the opponent on the way to the front wall, the ball is out.

The basic rules of which shots out include: not hitting the front wall, ball hit above or on the out line (refer to court diagram) or hitting the Tin (refer to diagram). When serving, all lines are out. After serving, all lines except for the cut line (refer to diagram) are out.

When playing a game, one person stands with one foot in the service box (not touching the line). Their opponent stands near the opposite service box. The server hits the ball on the front wall between the service line and the out line. The balls are either in or out but there are more specific terms to describe different situations for when the ball is out. The balls hit above or hitting the out line are up. The balls hitting the tin are down. When serves are hit out, the server has faulted. A double bounce is when the person going to hit the ball hits it after the ball has bounced twice. All balls must be returned after none or one bounces. A double hit is when someone who is hitting the ball hits the ball twice before it hits the front wall. The basic rules explained more in detail can be found on US Squash.

How many people play?

The SEM team plays singles. Most of the matches are played best of top 7 on the ladder. The ladder is ranked with the best person at #1, second best at #2 and so on. Some tournaments are played best out of top 9 players. SEM plays best 3 out of 5 games to 11 points (win by 2 points). If the score is 10-10, one player needs to get two points to win (12-10).

How is the game played including how is it scored?

Before the first game, one of the player spins the racket and the other player calls up or down, and left or right. The person who wins the spins gets to choose whether to serve or return. A large majority of the people who win the spin choose to serve. The server hits a serve to the returners backhand or weaker stroke. Whom every wins the point gets the serve. Each point, if the server continues to win, the server switches from right to left to right and continues while they are still winning. If the other player wins, they begin serving. The players keep playing until one player gets 11 points or wins by two points. After each game, the players meet with their coach and teammates to go over strategy for the next game. The players keep playing games until one player gets 3 games.

What are no lets, lets and strokes?

Because squash is played in a small court, there are often times when your opponent is in your way. The player trying to get ball can appeal to the referee for a let by stopping the point and calling “let” and pulling your free hand in the air in the shape of an L. The referees choose whether the shot was a no let, let and stroke. In junior squash, either the people that played before referee the next match or the people after referee the match before. For example, if the number 4 players were playing their match, the number 3 players, who play next, will referee the match. When refereeing, one girl from SEM and one girl from the opposing team will referee. One girl will call the score and write it down while the other girl will decide whether the points are no lets, lets and strokes. This refereeing system was made so that everyone now how to keep score and understands the game. Before playing in any tournament, each junior squash player must take and pass the Referee Exam.

What schools in Buffalo have teams?

There are three girls teams. Nichols, SEM and Nardin have varsity teams. Nardin also has a junior varsity team. Buffalo also has four boys teams. Nichols, Cansuis, Gow and St. Joe’s all have varsity teams, Cansuis also has a number of JV teams. This is correct, right? Doesn’t Canisius have more than 2 teams? What divisions do these other schools play in at Nationals?

Isabelle Schlehr
Isabelle Schlehr
Isabelle Schlehr

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