Women’s squash wins sixth straight provincial title, cementing dynasty status

Living squash legends chronicle greatness

Queen's has now won 16 provincial squash titles.
Supplied by Amelia Knapp

The Queen’s women’s squash team has reached dynasty status.

In February, the Gaels won their sixth consecutive OUA Championship, and the 16th since their inception.

The Gaels travelled to St. Catherine’s and breezed through their preliminary matches on Feb. 7 and 8, before beating Waterloo on Feb. 9 for the title.

Rookie Marlow Benson cleaned up with an individual record of 12-0, and the Gaels ended the tournament with a record of 24-4.

Benson cleaned up at the award ceremony too—she took home MVP, Rookie of the Year, an OUA All-Star placement, and was named the OUA’s Peak Performer of the Week. Captain Amelia Knapp was also named an OUA All-Star.

The individual success didn’t end with the players, as Head Coach Lisa Coates won Women’s Coach of the Year.

In an interview with The Journal, squash team alum and former captain Nora Abdelrahman Ibrahim said that recently, there are seemingly more players opting to stay in Canada instead of fleeing to a US program. Squash Ontario, specifically, is putting more effort into advertising itself.

I had heard of the calibre of the ladies that play on the team and the wins they had accomplished in the past,” Knapp said to The Journal of her recruitment. “I took it upon myself to get in contact with […] Coates to learn more about the program.”

Coates ­is a veteran. Prior to coaching at Queen’s, she coached high school sports over the course of a 30-year teaching career. “I’ve coached pretty much every high school sport and I currently also coach the La Salle tennis team in the spring,” Coates said in an interview with The Journal.

Coates hopped on board as head coach six years ago, and the Gaels haven’t lost an OUA title since. She is praised by her players as one of the main contributors to the team’s success.

Knapp told The Journal, “The most impactful factor that contributes [to the team’s success] is our coach Lisa Coates […] On the days when the team may not feel as motivated to give it our all, Lisa is always there to push [us].”

Ibrahim said the same:[I have to give credit to] our coach, Lisa Coates—she’s the glue that holds the team together, she is committed to the team’s success, growing the sport, and is a good role model for female athletes […] It wouldn’t be the same without her.”

Even after six banners in a row, Coates and her team haven’t eased off the gas pedal. They practice three times a week, and the captains host their own practices on top of that, too.

They seem to always be looking for ways to not only physically improve, but improve team spirit. The women recently ordered new practice shirts with their names on the back, and Knapp said that after that, they had “one of the best practices […] yet.”

Knapp and Ibrahim both said that, aside from Coates’ guidance, the team’s success is born from spirit, dedication, accountability, and a strong sense of community.

According to Knapp, the only thing the team struggles with is a serious lack of recognition and exposure, especially considering their elite calibre.

But they don’t let flying under the radar get them down—after all, they’ve got themselves for company.

“There were so many times where I was down a couple of points or a couple of games, and I remember looking out into the stands to see my coach, teammates, and even other Queen’s athletes from other teams cheering me on,” Ibrahim said. “It was rewarding to feel like I was part of something bigger than myself.”

Knapp’s favourite moment was fourth-year Jenna Dhanani’s last match: “As the final scores were being called and she was in the lead, the team assembled to greet her as she came off the court. We [embraced] her in a group hug to extend our appreciation of her contribution to the team.”

That was just one of many bonding moments for this team.

“The team [fostered] a community […] that I can confidently say has become a second family,” said Knapp. “These women push me to always put in my best effort even when I may not feel up to it and I hope I push them to do the same.”

Years later, Ibrahim is still in touch with former team members and people currently on the roster. “A lot of alumni […] will go to watch any university tournament that is near them to cheer on the Queen’s team.”

“That’s a testament to how close-knit our team atmosphere is, even across generations.”

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