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  • Elliot Kaufman

Lily Zelov: Climbing the Ladder

Everybody has a different path in their athletic career, and everybody has their own challenges and successes. Women’s Squash Co-captain Lily Zelov ’22 started playing at the second spot in the ladder during her first year on the team, but this success also had its challenges.

Starting her college career at the second spot on the ladder, Zelov felt uncomfortable. “At first, it almost felt wrong,” she said. “But, it pushed me to work harder during my freshman season. I took every practice and lift session very seriously and focused especially on my mental training.” She discussed her need to prove her worth at such a high spot on the ladder. The experience, being so high on the ladder as an underclassmen, taught her about accountability, responsibility, and most importantly humility. 

Despite the discomfort of being so high on the ladder as a freshman, her favorite squash memory took place in her first year with the Big Red. After a great campaign in her freshman year, at the College Squash Nationals, Cornell was seeded below two teams that she felt confident that Cornell could beat. Zelov’s match was the first played in the semi-finals against Ivy League rival Dartmouth College. Going into the match, she knew the result would impact the rest of the matchups for the Big Red. “I knew I had to set the tone to build momentum for our team,” Zelov explained. She went on to defeat her opponent strongly in only three games, without giving up more than 4 points in each game. This led to her truly enjoying watching her team succeed and win their way to the finals against University of Virginia. Cornell celebrated their hard-fought victory and their winning of the Kurtz Cup, led by Zelov.

Zlelov loved the team at that moment, but knew she felt connected to the girls since her very first visit. She chose to take her collegiate squash career to Cornell because of both the culture of the team and the school as a whole. She explained that she met the team during her first visit and found the women to be incredible. Also, the coaches at other schools weren’t very communicative, so she really appreciated the transparency in the recruitment process from the Cornell coaching staff. Then, when it came to Cornell and Ithaca, she had only positive things to say, “The atmosphere of the campus was perfect,” continuing to say, “The campus was totally our own- it was a fun place to live- and we weren’t totally in the middle of nowhere.” She also touched on the idea of feeling welcome and accepted during her tours at the university.

Fast forward to this year, her first as co-captain, and Zelov feels great pride and responsibility in leading the team. She aims to create a great team culture and befriend the underclassmen. “I will do my best to emulate what the captains my freshmen and sophomore seasons did to make me feel at home,” she said. Zelov wants to be a resource for the freshmen on and off the court, and believes it is the most effective way to be a leader.

We may not know what will happen with our squash program this year, but Zelov hopes to play a full season and create a tight-knit team, regardless of the circumstances.


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