Since she first stepped onto the squash courts at Bowdoin four years ago, Captain Niki Clement '06 has been a force to be reckoned with. Holding down the No.1 spot all four years, Clement has impressed players and spectators alike with her exceptional skill and poise.

Clement, whose father played squash in college, learned the game at a young age and began competing in tournaments "sometime during the seventh grade."

Although her high school did not have a team, she worked on her game by taking lessons and attending weekly clinics. By her senior year in high school, she was the top ranked junior in her age division and knew she wanted to continue playing at the collegiate level.

"I only looked at schools that had squash teams," she said.

Clement made an immediate impact on Bowdoin squash in her first year, playing one on the ladder.

"Although I was initially anxious about playing one as a freshman, I didn't give it too much thought once the season started. I just played my game and didn't worry about that stuff," she said.

Despite playing opponents three years older than her, she posted a stellar 16-4 record and was honored with the Outstanding First-Year Female Athlete Award at the end of the year.

Three years and three successful seasons later, Clement remains on top of the ladder, with more honors and awards to her name, including two-time All-American honors and MVP for three years.

In addition to her own success on the court, Clement has also been a tremendous leader for younger players.

"Niki is an awesome captain," first year Alex Franceschi said. "She works really hard which motivates the rest of the team to work hard."

Coach Tomas Fortson agrees.

"She is the hardest worker I have come across in my five years here," he said. "Whether it's a tight match or not, Niki is always competitive, tries her hardest, and runs down every ball."

Clement believes that her work ethic and dedication to Bowdoin squash is a result of her commitment to "playing for the team" rather than for just personal recognition.

"I think team chemistry affects everything in squash. One of the reasons the team has been so successful is because we have the environment for a great team. We play for each other," Clement said.

Clement looks to the last year's winter break training trip as evidence of the team's unity.

"Last year, the squash team traveled to Mexico. We practiced twice a day and got to go to the beach twice a day. We were together in a beautiful, warm place. It was awesome," she said.

Clement is excited about this year's team, which graduated no seniors and gained six first years.

"So far, this year's team has done really well. We've got a lot of talent and a lot of depth," she said.

With the addition of two field hockey players, who finished their season, and two juniors returning from abroad, the team will have the added advantage of depth.

The team kicked off the season with decisive wins over Tufts and Connecticut College, both 8-1 victories.

Clement is not sure how squash will shape her plans after graduation, but knows that she will will definitely continue to play in and around a "large city in the east with a relatively big squash population."

Clement does not hesitate to say how much she will miss Bowdoin, noting, "But most of all, I'm going to miss Bowdoin squash and putting on that jersey."