NEW YORK - Tomorrow is a day that many members of the Columbia men's squash team have been waiting a long time for.  The Lions will begin their first official day of practice as a varsity team beginning on October 15 under head coach Jacques Swanepoel.

Recently, gocolumbialions.com sat down with the team's three senior captains - Zach Ali (Princeton, N.J.), Clayton Dahlman (Denver, Colo.), and Dan Gentile (Princeton, N.J.). 

Here is what they had to say...

What made you choose Columbia and why did you choose to play squash?

Dan: I chose Columbia for two main reasons. First, I really liked the campus and the fact that it's in the city but still an isolated academic institution.  I really liked the energy of it and the people that I met on the Columbia campus were more vibrant and engaged, not only in activities on campus, but in the city as a whole. I really liked the idea of the being involved in the larger surrounding environment.  Academics and the core curriculum were also a big draw.

Clayton:  Regarding the squash, we were playing on the club team the year it was announced it was going varsity. So our past three years have been spent helping the program develop.  The team has gotten better and better and that's been very exciting for us.

Zach - I came to this university for a lot of the same reasons that Dan touched on. Mainly it being academic institution inside New York City.  There is never a dull moment, there's always something to do. In regards to squash, I wanted to keep playing at the club level, and we've been given the opportunity to play at the varsity level, and as Clay was saying, we've been preparing for that over the past couple of years. 

What's something that people might not know about the squash team here?

Clayton: I think our team plays on the largest squash facility on the island of Manhattan. There are eight brand new gorgeous courts. Our coaches [Swanepoel and Kelsey Engman] are both very accomplished players, and as their first head coaching jobs, they are coming into this with a fresh new attitude just as much as everyone else on the team.  There's a lot of potential to really set a good pace to start this program.

Dan:  I think there's so much opportunity because we are the last school in the Ivy League to add varsity squash.  The program is still in the early stages of development and there's a lot that a future recruit could really do with that - to help take us to the next level.

Clayton: It's being built with the full intention that its going to become a top program.   There's very active community involvement with the team, especially with the Street Squash program, as everyone volunteers once a week.  There is a very clear drive from everyone on the team to really set the standard in how the team will start as a varsity program.

What is the team's sentiment right now?

Zach: I think everyone is really excited. We have a lot of returning players and new players - we're all really excited for the season.

Dan: It's been a long time coming, but it's finally here!