Last weekend, the men’s squash team won a tight 5-4 match against Hobart to clinch the Division-D Conroy Cup at the College Squash Association (CSA) Men’s National Championships in Connecticut. The previous weekend, women’s squash came in second in the women’s Division-D Epps Cup at Harvard after a 5-4 loss to William Smith College.
The fate of both teams was decided by an extremely thin margin. Despite the results, however, both teams evaluated themselves on their performances rather than the result of the competition.
“Even though [the thin margin] is so extreme, it tells you something about competition,” Head Coach Tomas Fortson said. “Hopefully one of the best lessons we learn is that we have to be able to judge ourselves more by our approach, attention to detail and our performance than the actual result of competition. That is really hard to do, but is important to learn to do that in athletics.”
Every collegiate squash team has the opportunity to compete in the national championships, which are divided by rank and not by NCAA divisions. Each division consists of eight teams.
Despite a couple players being ill and a second place seed in their bracket, the men’s team pushed beyond the obstacles to clinch the CSA title.
“With [the sicknesses] in mind we were in a disadvantage to win,” said men’s captain George Cooley ’18. “Winning the tournament definitely exceeded our expectations and people were able to step up and play their best matches of the season.”
Before her last collegiate match, women’s captain Zoe Wood ’18 won the 2018 College Squash Association Wetzel Award. The award is given to a senior who began playing squash in college and who understands the game, exhibits good sportsmanship, possesses a high level of skill and is a positive influence on the court.
“It was an emotional whirlwind of a weekend with winning the award, being my last matches, having great wins and heartbreaking losses and seeing alumni and parents,” Wood said. “I’ve had to come through a lot of hard work and frustration to get to this point.”
As a freshman, Wood had never played squash before, so the women’s team—who is reliant on walk-on members—sees Wood’s achievements as motivation for younger teammates.
Three Bowdoin women have earned the award in the program’s 23 years. In 2014, Michaela Martin ’14 was awarded the honor. Martin convinced Wood to try the sport and served as Wood’s mentor during her first year.
“It was pretty sweet to win it because [Martin], the girl who had won the award her senior year, was at nationals and came to watch us,” Wood said. “It was special to have her there. I didn’t know [that I was going to win] the award; I don’t think she knew either. It was really great.”
To achieve success this season, the team worked to build strong relationships among members and refine their techniques by focusing on developing new skills.
“It takes a lot of effort, a lot of mental energy—not just focus but being purposeful in every practice,” Forston said. “There are constantly new skills being added to the to do list for our players and it is very challenging to keep pushing, keep evolving and changing the game physically and mentally. We know that’s a pretty big challenge and individuals handle that differently.”
Throughout the season the team improved by reflecting on past matches, failures and challenges. While the wins are important, the team quantifies its success by the lessons it learned and the effort is gives.
“For me, feeling that I’ve given everything to a match and coming off without any regrets and giving 100 percent effort is what success looks like,” said Wood.
According to Cooley, the men’s season has given them confidence going into the 2018-2019 season.
“The team is in a very good place for next season. We placed two spots ahead of last year in the national ranking, we’re only losing one senior, and we’re definitely going to have a bunch of good players coming in next year,” said Cooley said.
The teams are looking forward to becoming more competitive.
Women’s captain Lex Horowitz ’19 said, “I think we can do better than we did this year. I think if we start with the mindset ‘be one percent more determined every day,’ then next year can be even stronger”.