SquashTalk >Al Ahram 2001, Cairo, Egypt > Historical Records

Gail Ramsay, 4-Time College
Champion

May 15, 2007, By Rob Dinerman on SquashTalk.com, Independent
News
; © 2007 SquashTalk LLC, all Rights in all media reserved.

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GAIL RAMSAY, PRINCETON’S NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP COACH

Gail Ramsay
(Photo © Debra Tessier)

Capping
off her richly deserved standing as a significant presence on all
levels of U. S. women’s squash for more than
35 years, Gail Ramsay added yet another major chapter to her long,
multi-front legacy just this past spring when she coached the Princeton
Tigers to the Howe Cup title, emblematic of the women’s intercollegiate
national championship. It was the third Princeton Howe Cup win (also ’98
and ’99) in Ramsay’s 13-year tenure at Jadwin Gymnasium
following a six-year stint as squash and tennis coach (from 1988-94)
at Williams College that was preceded by the eight years she spent
coaching at various New York City clubs following her graduation
in 1980 from Penn State.

As a collegian, Ramsay won all four Intercollegiate
Individual championships (1977-80) in which she competed, the only
person ever to accomplish this feat until Yasser el-Halaby did so
in the men’s division from 2003-06. It was during her 1979-80
senior season that she reached the first of her three U. S. Nationals
finals (also ’82 and ’85).

UP AGAINST FORMIDABLE SUPERSTARS
There likely would
have been more such Nationals final-round appearances, and possibly
several final-round victories as well, in both this and other 1980’s
women’s tourneys (like the Weymuller Invitational, the Chivas
Regal, the Loew’s Cup, the U. S. Open, the Boston Open and
Southport) as well, had it not been Ramsay’s fate to have her
prime years directly overlap with the playing careers of Hall Of
Famers Barbara Maltby (who won the first of her two Nationals in
1980 after being runner-up from 1976-79), Alicia
McConnell
(who won
the first of her record seven consecutive Nationals in 1982) and
Demer Holleran, who won the Nationals from 1989-94 after being a
finalist in 1987 and 1988.

Although she was almost never able to break
though against these three superstars (the one exception being when
she saved a fourth-game match-ball en route to a five-game victory
over McConnell in Greenwich in ’85), Ramsay parlayed her soft
hands, match experience (she had been ranked in the women’s
top-seven since the age of 13) and competitive ardor into an extremely
solid singles career in which she rarely absorbed a loss to a player
ranked below her, played No. 1 on several New York teams that won
the senior Howe Cup (in which many regional five-player teams from
all across America participate) and on several occasions pushed the
Maltby/McConnell/Holleran troika to the very brink.

siddall stoker
Gail Ramsay
– often found wearing the Princeton Orange (Photo © Debra
Tessier)

The last of these
near-misses occurred in the 1987 Weymuller event at the Heights Casino
club in Brooklyn, where Ramsay had been the pro during three early-1980’s
years and whose final round she had reached five years earlier via
a straight-game semifinal win over her contemporary and two-time
Intercollegiates final-round victim Nancy Gengler. This time, inspired
by the vocal support of her former squash protégés,
Ramsay battled McConnell to 17-all in the fifth, simultaneous match-point,
in a pulsating semi, before the latter was able to nudge a shallow
backhand rail barely above the tin. Though no one could have known
this at the time, that was to prove the last point of Ramsay’s
singles career, as a shoulder injury that surfaced just a few weeks
later sidelined her for the remainder of that 1987-88 season, after
which she relocated to Williamstown to begin her 19-year (and counting)
career as a college coach and confined her competitive play to women’s
and mixed doubles.

HARDBALL DOUBLES CHAMP
By that time, Ramsay had already won
the ’83
National Women’s Doubles with Mary O’Toole and the U.
S. Mixed Doubles five of the previous six years (in ’82, ’83, ’86
and ’87 with her younger brother Billy and in ’85 with
Neal Vohr). Two more early-1990’s titles in each of these disciplines
would follow (the ’90 and ’91 Mixed with Billy and the ’91
and ’92 Women’s with Julie Harris), as Ramsay’s
lobbing skill, canny short game and court-positioning expertise,
complemented by the noteworthy family chemistry she and her sibling
attained (one frequent Mixed rival recently noted that “they
played not only WITH each other but FOR each other”), made
her one of the best right-wall  woman’s doubles players
of her era and a
record-holder in U. S. National Mixed competition until Holleran
and Keen Butcher eclipsed Ramsay’s seven titles with the eight
they captured in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

INTERNATIONAL CAPS
In addition
to her exploits in women’s/mixed
doubles and hardball singles, Ramsay also earned a spot on U. S.
squads that competed in the World Team Championships in Australia
in ’83 and Ireland in ’85, which latter feat, supplemented
by her Mixed title, National singles finalist status and Greenwich
win over McConnell, earned her post-season recognition by the New
York squash association, which selected Ramsay for its most prestigious
award, the Edwin Bigelow Cup “for excellence in play” after
the 1984-85 season. She later also became a first-ballot inductee
into the CSA (college squash association) Hall Of Fame in 1995 in
acknowledgement of the four Intercollegiate titles that she won at
Penn State, in deference to which the Intercollegiate Individual
tournament was re-named the Gail Ramsay Cup in 2002.

COACH

siddall stoker
Gail Ramsay
and Bob Callahan – Reunited as the Princeton coaching team (Photo
courtesy Gail Ramsay)

When Ramsay assumed
the coaching reins at Princeton in September ’94, she was re-united
with her childhood friend and neighbor Bob Callahan, whom she had
first met during the mid-1960’s
where they used to play tennis at the Cynwyd Club in suburban Philadelphia,
just walking distance from their respective homes, and who has been
the head squash coach at Princeton since 1981. They instantly formed
an extremely harmonious working relationship (not always the case
with two coaches who have to divvy up court space), including co-directing
the Princeton Squash Training Center (a series of weeklong summer
sessions for aspiring juniors which recently marked 25 years of its
existence), and highlighted in the fall of 2001, when they collaborated
beautifully in a “Celebration Of 100 Years Of Princeton Squash” (the
men’s varsity debuted in 1932, the women’s in 1972, hence
100 COMBINED years of Princeton Squash) that turned into a smashing
success and drew hundreds of former letter-winning squash alumni
from every corner of the world to Jadwin Gymnasium to commemorate
the occasion.

Gail Ramsay
and her Princeton Team Celebrate the 1999 Howe Cup championship (Photo ©Princeton
University )

At that juncture, the Princeton women were contemplating
a lean next few years in the wake of the graduation the prior spring
of both three-time (1999-2001) Intercollegiate Individual champion
Julia Beaver and her classmate Meredeth Quick, who subsequently has
reached three National singles finals (’02, ’04 and ’05)
while winning the ’06 U. S. Mixed with her brother Preston
(joining the Ramsays as the only siblings to win this crown) and
the ’07 U. S. Women’s Doubles with Fiona Geaves.

But in
the fall of ’03 a freshman class featuring
Claire Rein-Weston, Gen Lessard, Ali Pearson, Marilla Hiltz and Anina
Nolan would hit campus and gradually build a legacy that culminated
late this past winter at the Howe Cup, where, bolstered by several
talented underclassmen, the Tigers first  destroyed three-time
defending champion Yale on its “home” New Haven turf
7-2  in the semis and then compellingly out-played a strong
Harvard squad 6-3 in the finals, evincing the depth that had carried
them to a 10-0 regular-season and Ivy League title by sweeping the
Nos. 5 through 9 positions against their Crimson opponents.

This return
to glory, occurring just weeks before Ramsay’s
milestone 50th birthday, glowingly confirmed her successful recovery
from the knee operation she underwent last summer and put an exclamation
point on a college-coaching tenure in which she held the women’s
CSA presidency for four terms and currently serves on the Executive
Board. With five members of the starting nine (including the Nos.
2 and 3, freshmen Neha Kumar and Amanda Siebert) returning next season,
it seems likely that Ramsay is well positioned and highly motivated
to continue to add well into the foreseeable future to the impressive
decades-long resume she has already constructed as player, administrator
and coach.

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Historical information PSA Men's Pro Event:

Year Winner Runnerup Scores
1996 Jansher Khan Ahmed Barada  
1997 Peter Nicol Jansher Khan  
1998 Ahmed Barada Martin Heath 15/5,15/17,15/13,13/15,15/13
1999 Peter Nicol Ahmed Barada 15-9, 15-13, 15-11
2000 Peter Nicol Ahmed Barada 15/14, 9/15, 15/3, 15/12
2001      
       
       

 

Historical information PSA Women's Pro Event:

Year Winner Runnerup Scores
1997 Sarah Fitz-Gerald Michelle Martin  
1998 Michelle Martin Cassie Jackman  
1999 Michelle Martin Carol Owens 9-6, 9-0, 10-9
2000 Leilani Joyce Carol Owens 8/10, 9/7, 9/5, 3/9, 9/5

 







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