Walking down the stairwell to the Greenwich Academy squash courts there are snapshots of the legacy the Gators have built with championship photos adorning the walls. These are merely frozen memories documenting a handful of the 13 consecutive New England titles and four national championships GA has won over the last decade and a half. It is a program built upon dominance with an unwavering pursuit of excellence.
While the faces change from photo to photo there is one smile that remains ever present, that of GA head coach Karen Miller. Entering her 16th season with the Gators, there was Miller Saturday smiling and supporting her team just as she's done every year prior with a familiar result. GA opened its season with a convincing 7-0 win over Lawrenceville.
"This was a great way for us to start the season because Lawrenceville is a talented team that really challenged us today," Miller said. "It took a couple of points, but once we gained our focus we took care of business."
The Gators got off on the right foot with senior co-captain Lilly Fast defeating Mina Shakarsky 11-6, 11-,7, 11-8 in the No. 1 spot and No. 2 Anna Harrison besting Katherine Elliott-Moskwa by a count of 11-4, 11-7, and 11-5.
"We went into this match thinking it would be tough and Lawrenceville gave us a battle," Fast said. "We needed to step it up and stay consistent and I think that was the key to victory today."
In addition to Fast and Harrison, co-captain Caroline Feeley, Alex Lunt, Nina Scott, Claire Blumenthal, and Izzy Dowling all won in straight games in spots three through seven respectfully. It was a match that marked the beginning of a new year and an effort to maintain the dominance of their proud past.
"We respect every team we face because we know that they are going to give us everything they've got," Feeley said. "We just want to go out there and keep the GA winning tradition alive."
For Miller this is so much more than just the first game of another season with lofty expectations. This is the beginning of a journey that begins as a team and ends as a family.
"We've always been a family in this program and each year the members change but the feeling of unity never does," Miller said. "Each season is not only a journey driven by a desire to succeed but an emotional journey as well. The bond we forge on our way to our goals is just as important as achieving those goals."
And her players are just as committed to her as she is to their success.
"She's just amazing," Fast said of Miller. "She finds what motivates us and brings out the best is each of us. She is a huge part of this program and the success it has enjoyed."
The last 15 years have produced plenty of reasons to smile, and as the Gators begin the defense of their FAA, New England, and National championships don't be surprised to see another family photo added to the stairwell with the familiar smiling face of Miller shining as bright as ever.
AT THE HELM: Miller is entering her 16th season as GA head coach. In her tenure the Gators have won 13 consecutive New England titles, 16 FAA titles, and won four National Championships since its inception five seasons ago. They won all three titles last season and finished a perfect 16-0.
WHO'S BACK?: Senior Meredith Schmidt-Fellner is one of three tri-captains returning with Fast and Feeley. Harrison, Lunt, Blumenthal, and Dowling all add veteran experience to the 2009-2010 Gators.
LOOK OUT FOR: The entire team. Simply put Miller can't say who will be a stand out for her squad because she believes it's the deepest she's had.
"This team is so deep and consistent that all the spots and players are interchangeable," Miller said. "This is the best team I've had with solid players across the board."
STRENGTHS: GA does so much well that it is hard to pinpoint one area, but according to Miller it is how the Gators approach their opponents. "These girls are smart and are very good at figuring out what their opponents weakness is and exploiting it. They do that well and also capitalize on their own strengths at the same time."
WEAKNESSES: On paper the Gators don't seem to have many flaws, but according to Miller that all depends on how they respond when challenged.
"Once we are battle tested this season we'll have a better understanding of any potential weaknesses we have," Miller said.
"We need to see how we react when pushed to the limit."
SHOWDOWNS: The Gators are back to work today as they host St. George and Deerfield for matches at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. respectfully. Additional matches to highlight on the calendar include local rivals Convent of the Sacred Heart (12/9 at 4:15 p.m., Home and 2/9 at 4 p.m., Apawamis Club), and Rye Country Day School (12/15 at 4 p.m., Home and 1/12 at 4:30 p.m., Away).