The women’s and men’s squash teams began their seasons 0-2, after both losing to Trinity and Drexel in their opening matches. 

Though losses to two top-10 teams would not normally be disheartening, both teams have struggled to fill their rosters since before the season due to injured players and juniors studying off campus. Each team needs to fill at least nine spots on its roster as that is the number of individual games played in a squash match.

 According to Head Coach Tomas Fortson, having a small team is not uncommon in the sport. Composed of both recruits and walk-ons, there is no guarantee that the Bowdoin teams’ numbers will match those of other programs. In the NESCAC, on average about 16 and 13 players compose a men’s and women’s team, respectively. 

However, this year’s roster issues proved especially difficult as the men’s team questioned its ability to even field a nine-man roster this fall.

As a result, Fortson opened up spots to beginner walk-ons on both teams. While this is a fairly regular practice for the women’s team, the men’s team has only done so one other time in its history. 

For the women’s team, one of the two walk-ons did not have any previous experience. The men’s team accepted three walk-ons—two with no experience and one with low-level high school experience. 

With roster numbers still challengingly low, this year’s beginner walk-ons have had significantly more playing time than in the past, especially on the men’s side.

“They’re learning quickly, but they [are not] ready this year for the most part,” said Fortson. “Right now it’s just an opportunity for them to get involved and hopefully they can realistically be playing matches next year.”

The addition of the new players has also impacted the culture of both teams. A younger, less-experienced team placed a new emphasis on the top of the ladder. 

With the hopes for improvement of the teams’ bottom halves as the season progresses, there is high potential for success.

Women’s captain Sarah Nelson ’17 and men’s captain Christian Dorff ’17 acknowledged the difficulties of competing as a novice but were positive about the improvement of the teams’ new members.

“They’ve definitely been a positive presence,” said Dorff. “Walking on is a hard thing to do, but they’re all doing a good job and I think they’ll end up being valuable members of the team.”

“Our program really stresses development of players and not always recruiting the top players of the class, but rather players that have a lot of potential,” said Nelson. 

As the teams prepare for their matches against Bates today, Fortson says each member is focusing on improving individually and learning from the previous two losses. 

For both teams, this match is an interesting challenge since the Bates’ teams are similarly strong at the top. This will also be the women’s first time facing Bates since last season’s victory, which was the women’s first win over Bates in a decade.

With many matches to come and a lot of room for improvement, both Fortson and the teams’ captains are optimistic for the season.

“Every year is the same for us: we hope to have people who are pretty committed to the relationships they have amongst themselves and to the process of improving every day regardless of level,” said Fortson. “If we can stay healthy and keep getting better, we should have a good season.”