Women’s Squash Wins Nationals: Talking Keys to Success with Co-Captain Nouran Youssef ’24

5 min read

Annika Dyczkowski ’25

Sports Editor

Last Sunday, March 3, Women’s Squash clinched their first National Championship title in ten years. The Tripod had the opportunity to discuss an unforgettably successful weekend and undefeated season with senior captain Nouran Youssef ’24.

Youssef lives in Smouha, Egypt and is a returning starter for the Bantams. Last season, she earned College Squash Association (CSA) All-American Second Team and All-NESCAC First Team honors. This season, she earned a spot on the All-NESCAC First Team and was hailed NESCAC Player of the Year.

Prior to the weekend, the team was locked in to win it all. Last year, Trinity was seeded #1 in the tournament and ended up falling to #2 seeded Harvard University 5-4 in the championship. Youssef alludes to last year and how they learned from its end going into the National Championship. “We were all super focused from the beginning and knew we had learned from last year.” She shares that they practiced hard for weeks preparing to play Harvard in the finals again, “treating every match as a final and not getting cocky.”

Contrary to many expectations, Princeton University upset Harvard 5-4 in the semifinal match. Youssef shares that the team did not know how to react to this news, since they had been practicing with Harvard in mind. She notes that Princeton would be “mentally easier” for the team to face rather than Harvard, who clinched the Howe Cup over Trinity just last season. With this in mind, she and co-captain Madeleine Hylland ’24 held a team meeting before the final match to prepare their teammates. “Just because we are more comfortable playing [Princeton] doesn’t mean we already won; they have nothing to lose.” They knew that winning would not come easy, and this was evident in the starting sets of their match.

When it came time for Youssef to warm-up, Trinity was down by 2-1 and two other teammates were down by one set. She recalls the thoughts that briefly passed through her mind: “This is happening again — we’re gonna lose again.” Nevertheless, Youssef knew she had to warm up and focus on her own game. “If I keep thinking about my teammates’ matches, I won’t be able to focus on mine so hopefully they’ll do their best and win theirs.” After she finished reassuring herself, she began warming up, “We trained so hard. We are obviously the better team and I have to trust my teammates.”

Youssef dialed in for her match and played her game. Going into this match undefeated on the season (17-0) with a 40-12 career record as a Bantam, the odds were in her favor. “I didn’t know how my teammates were doing but I knew I had to win my match.” During her last set, teammates began gathering around her court, as she was the last player to finish. It was 10-7 match ball, and she needed one more point to win the set. Judging from their excitement, she knew: “If I win this, we win the whole thing.” Youssef battled for the final point and bested Princeton opponent Emma Trauber, winning all three matches 11-4, 11-8 and 11-7 for the Trinity victory.

“When I won that point it was very emotional.” Youssef recalls turning around and seeing her teammates celebrating with screams and cheers, “There was a whole history with last year’s finals, they [were] dying for me to win, and we’ve been waiting to finally do this as a team. When I saw all of them happy… it was the best moment in my college experience.” The opportunity to win something so special with a close-knit team is what Youssef describes as the best feeling. “It’s all about trust. We were down but I trusted my teammates to pull through. It’s not just about the winning but about staying positive, training harder and sticking together.”

Youssef believes that a core value of the team is hard work. “I have never seen teammates work harder than mine.” Although squash is an individual sport with a team score, Youssef emphasizes how working hard for a group success is incredibly motivating. “I’m going to fight for everybody. If I’m not having the best day, I can control my effort; I trust that the person next to me is putting in 100%, fighting for me, and I’m doing the same.”

Youssef says that her favorite part of being on the team is simply being with her teammates. “I grew up with four brothers. I’ve always wanted a sister and being friends with all the girls makes it feel like they’re my sisters.” In addition to competing No. 3 on the ladder for her team, Youssef is also a computer science major, math minor and engineering intern. She shares the difficulty of balancing her academic schedule with her squash schedule, “It’s hard to balance [school] and squash when I have a lab ending at 4:15 and I have to run to 4:30 practice.”

Although her schedule can be tiring, she shares that her team makes it all worth it by cultivating an environment where everyone can succeed. “If we didn’t have the relationship we do and we didn’t make the space fun I would just walk through practice and leave,” she continues, “They cheer me on and they support me, and their support makes me want to work hard every day.” Youssef emphasizes the importance of team culture in their success, stating that “it’s the most important thing for success.”

Like cultivating a welcoming team culture, Youssef explains why respect is also important for team success. The team comprises players representing nine different countries, all of which are international. “Squash is what brings us together, making it a safe space is so important because if it’s not a safe space we’re not gonna be able to win.” She continues, “No matter how different we are, we all respect our differences.”

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