Kristen Lange is no stranger to playing squash in Philadelphia, but her match Monday night across the street in Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center could not have been farther from her Ivy League career.
The 2010 Penn alumna was chosen as the wild card to participate in the 2012 U.S. Open Squash Championships, joining the top-12 squash players in the world.
She fell in three sets to reigning U.S. Open champion Laura Massaro, 11-0, 11-3 and 11-4.
Though she is currently ranked No. 66 in the world, the executives in U.S. Squash selected Lange over other players ranked higher than her in recognition of her recent improvements on the international stage.
“It’s such an honor,” Lange said. “It’s as if you were playing on a team with Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and Larry Bird all at the same time.”
At Penn, Lange was a four-time first-team All-American as well as 2008-09 Ivy League Player of the Year.
Because she was the lowest ranking member in the tournament, Lange was matched up against Massaro, the No. 2 player in the world.
“I’ve worked really hard to get here, and I’m going to keep working really hard to improve,” Lange said. “It was just that they believed in me, and that’s what it comes down to in the end — a few people believe in you.”
Massaro, who hails from Preston, England, has played professionally for the last decade.
“For the first time, you have these butterflies in your stomach, and you feel like your breathing really shallow,” Lange said. “It’s just working those out first and making sure you don’t waste too much energy being nervous.”
Her coach of a year and half, Renato Paiva, credited Lange with keeping her composure even after failing to record a single point in the first set.
“She doesn’t play this caliber player a lot,” Paiva said. “For [the executives at U.S. Squash] to pick her to be the wildcard is really a vote of confidence.”
He expects Lange to crack the low 50s in world rankings in the near future.
Lange’s season doesn’t stop here. She will be heading home to train for the next four weeks before moving on to the Women’s World Team Squash Championships in France to play on the U.S. team in November.