Squash swings its way to top ten ranking
After rigorous winter break training and four more matches, the men's squash team cracked the top ten in the College Squash Association, behind seven Ivy League teams, University of Maine at Orono, and number-one ranked Trinity.
Competing on back-to-back days after a grueling trip down to the University of Pennsylvania last weekend, the men lost to Amherst, 5-4 and Penn, 9-0.
"Considering the circumstances surrounding our trip to Penn, I'm satisfied with our performance," said junior co-captain Greg Clement. After an eight-hour drive, Clement said, "We came out a little slow and showed some lethargy, which led to our narrow loss."
"Amherst was a tough loss for us," said senior co-captain George Hubbard. "We are not a worse team than them; we just didn't play to our potential. Penn is a better team than we are, but, as Coach Fortson told us, we have the skills to beat teams like Penn. We just need to take that next step of planning to win a match, not just a point."
The Polar Bears proved the high caliber of their squash skills on January 10 and 11, defeating both Denison, 8-1, and Wesleyan, 9-0. Although at that point, Denison was ranked ahead of Bowdoin, the Bears have since clawed two spots past Denison.
"The Denison win was huge for us," said Hubbard. "Everyone really stepped up and played [his] match to the best of [his] ability. The team now realizes that we have the talent and capability to play at that high level of squash."
Team members Lawrence Delasotta '04, Grant White '04, Jon Crowell '05, George MacLeod '05, Chris Metcalf '05, Erin Toan '05, Bruce Saltzman '06, and Doug Weeden '06 combined to win all eight of their matches.
The only loss of the day came from number-one player Clement, who competed against a Denison player who was ranked sixth-best individually in collegiate squash earlier this season.
"Denison is traditionally a pretty strong team," said Clement, "but we knew they were a little weaker this year. We [also] knew Wesleyan was pretty weak, so we changed the line-up. It was a solid 9-0 win."
Clement, Saltzman, Weeden, Toan, Metcalf, White, and MacLeod all returned to capture individual victories against Wesleyan, and were aided by strong performances from Peter Carter '04 and Nick Adams '06.
Before leaving and returning to Bowdoin for winter training, the Bears also competed in two losing efforts on December 7 and 8 against Williams, 4-5, and Trinity, 0-9.
At that point, Williams held a significantly higher national ranking than Bowdoin. "To their surprise, we all stepped up our level of play and gave them a run for their money," said Hubbard. "Had a few more shots fallen in our favor, we would have won. It was a very big step for us-it's the closest we have ever come to beating Williams."
Although the Ephs managed to shut out Bowdoin's top five players -Clement, Delasotta, Crowell, Saltzman and Toan-Bowdoin swept last four matches, led by Weeden, Metcalf, White and Hubbard, leaving Williams with a narrow victory.
"The men have never beaten Williams, so coming [this close] of doing it is a good accomplishment," said Fortson. "With the prospect of playing five or six matches versus teams [considered] better than us this year, it was important to put ourselves in position to win. The team accomplished that, so they now know that they can play at that level."
The next day, the valiant Bears played against another team accustomed to national-level competition; the Trinity Tigers, who reigned as national champions for the last four years, and still hold a number-one collegiate ranking.
"Trinity is the best team in college squash, and has been for years," said Hubbard. "We were not looking for a win, just solid play, and a chance to improve."
Clement, Crowell, Saltzman, Toan, Weeden, Metcalf, White, MacLeod, and Fensterstock, respectively, rallied fiercely against the Tigers. However, despite many narrow matches, especially those played by Weeden and Toan who both played an extra set in their individual matches, Trinity escaped with a 9-0 victory.
"That Trinity match had the potential for a wipeout, but the team fought well and had many respectable scores," said Fortson. Furthermore, Fortson pointed out that Williams also lost to Trinity 9-0 in their match.
"I hope that [our] players are motivated by their solid start to the season," said Fortson.