Feb. 12, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. -
When the Stanford women's squash team travels to Yale this weekend for the Howe Cup - college squash's national championship tournament - it will be the team's fourth and final East Coast trip this season.
For seniors Kerrie Sample, Pamela Chua and Julie Koenig, it will be the last trip East with the team.
It will be a bittersweet moment for the senior trio that joined the team in 2009 and competed alongside one another the past four years.
They will compete in their final collegiate match Sunday, but will walk off the court filled with four years of memories.
When asked to provide their single most memorable moment from their time on the team, each senior provided two: one from their time on the court and one from their time spent together off the court.
"A really import part of the team is being a family," said Sample, a native of Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. "We're all just so close and that's been a big part of our four years."
The group has had plenty of time to bond over the past four years as the team has made the long trek East for almost every collegiate match.
Stanford is a bit of an outlier in the world of collegiate squash being located in the West, but has made a name for itself since its inaugural 2005-06 season, consistently being ranked and finishing in the top 10. The Cardinal is currently the only team west of Pennsylvania ranked in the top 25.
A major reason for Stanford's growth and success has been the team's breakthrough performances in recent years against top East Coast teams, including Cornell, which each senior named as Stanford's rival.
Koenig, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, said the team's 6-3 victory over Cornell at the 2011 Howe Cup was a special moment for her and the program.
"It was a huge breakthrough to beat a really strong East Coast team," said Koenig. "Being a new program and on the West Coast, we needed that victory to help with recruiting and to give ourselves confidence to know that we are in that top group of teams."
Stanford and Cornell have had a series of close matches since that outing, with the Big Red edging the Cardinal in its most recent meeting earlier this season, 5-4.
Chua, a three-time All-American from Singapore, is hopeful for one more shot at Cornell and hopes the team performs to the best of its abilities throughout the tournament.
"The most important thing is that I want everyone to compete well," said Chua. "Our focus will be on beating Cornell."
While each senior has dedicated themselves to the team's mission, they also each hold their own personal goals entering their final weekend of competition.
"My goal going in is to win," said Koenig. "More than ever I have this desire to make my matches long and tough and never give up. I don't want to walk out of a match saying, `I could have done this or that,' I want to walk out knowing I gave it my all and pushed the matches as hard as I could."
Sample echoed Koenig's desire to give everything she can in her final weekend of collegiate competition.
"I want to do my best," Sample said. "I'm realizing it's my last opportunity to show Stanford and show my coach what I can do.
"All I want to do is play the best I've ever played."
With their goals set as high as ever, the senior trio will lead Stanford in its pursuit of the Howe Cup.
And if everything goes as planned, their last collegiate match will be more sweet than bitter.