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Women’s and men’s squash start season strong under new head coach

November 22, 2019

Jack Burnett
CONTROL THE T: Sophie Barber ’23 and Tyler Shonrock ’20 wind up for backhands in last weekend’s set of home matches against Vassar and Bates. The two teams went 3-1 combined in a promising first weekend for new Head Coach Theo Woodward.

Reflecting on the kick-off of the squash season this past weekend, captain Drew Clark ’20 said, “It’s a great time to be a squash player.”

Both the women’s and men’s squash teams hosted two successful home matches versus Bates (1-1) and Vassar (4-5). The men’s team found victory in both matches, beating Bates (2-0) 5-4 in the first win over the Bobcats since 2002. The women’s team also showed a strong debut despite shifts in the ladder due to injuries, beating Vassar (4-3) 6-3 and putting up a strong fight against Bates in a 2-7 loss.

“Both teams are definitely growing a lot both on and off the court,” said captain Tyler Shonrock ’20. “The first couple matches speak for themselves, skill-wise and squad-wise.”

The start of the season also marks the debut of a new coaching staff. Head Coach Theo Woodward, who previously coached at Drexel University and Dartmouth College, brings a competitive energy. Ian Squiers ’19 has also returned to the program as an assistant coach after four successful years as a starter on the men’s team.

“[Coach Woodward] conducts practice with a purpose,” Clark said. “He’s improved our work ethic and practice, [and] also brought the community very close together.”

“It’s been a very welcome change for the women’s team,” said Clio Bersani ’22, one of the women’s captains.

Woodward looks forward to re-energizing the Bowdoin squash program, eager to garner publicity and excitement from the greater community.

Three weeks into the season, Woodward already has a vision for what he wants to shape the program into.

“It’s all going well, but it’s a lot of change and trying to get the basics right so that we’ve got strong foundations for the future,” said Woodward. “The main thing we’re trying to do is change the culture.”

In addition to a new coaching staff, both teams also welcome a strong group of first-year recruits. With nine underclassmen and five upperclassmen, men’s team co-captains Clark, Shonrock and Gannon Leech ’21 view the development of these players as essential for the future success of the program.

“We really want to develop the leadership and a good team culture, which will give us the best opportunity to excel in every match that we play and really set the stage for the next two or three years where the future looks really bright,” said Clark.

Similarly, with six first-years on the 13-player women’s roster, Bersani recognizes the new members as crucial in terms of revitalizing the program.

“I want to make sure that [the first-years] feel really welcome and included on the team as well as making sure that the returning players all are on their game,” said Bersani.

Woodward is concerned primarily with the team’s improvement rather than numerical results this season.

“When I really think about what we’re doing, it’s not easy,” said Woodward. “It’s more, to me, about first years developing a good energy, setting high standards and expectations … and then holding them to those standards.”

After that, Woodward said, “the results will come.”

This weekend, both teams will travel to Wesleyan for matches against Hamilton (0-1 M, 0-1 W) and Wesleyan (0-1 M, 0-1 W). Clark, Leech and Shonrock hope to keep the men’s team’s momentum going and bring home a 4-0 record. The men’s team hasn’t started a season with such a record since 2001.

Looking forward, the men’s team anticipates facing tough opponents at the NESCAC tournament, which will be hosted at Bowdoin this year.

“We hope to keep up our momentum and work ethic all the way through,” said Clark, hopeful for the team’s high performance at the tournament.

The opportunity to showcase the team’s improvement on their home court at NESCACs is the first step, said Clark, to “get[ting] the squash program back on track to where it was in the early 2000s.”

Hannah Reiff ’22, a member of the women’s team, encourages people to come out to the matches throughout the season to witness the energy, which Bersani described as “electric.”

“The space is very small and we get a lot of rowdy people in there,” Reiff said. “Even if you don’t understand the sport, there’s people around to help you pick it up fast.”


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