The Bowdoin men’s squash team finished out an impressive season by making history at last Sunday’s NESCAC Championships. Bowdoin defeated Colby 6-3 and Middlebury 7-2 in the quarterfinals before facing off against Trinity in the final. Though the team lost 8-1 to Trinity, who remained undefeated for the fifteenth year in a row, its overall second-place result marked the best-ever finish for the Polar Bears at a NESCAC Championship.
The Bowdoin men’s squash team suffered a rocky start to the season, losing its first three matches in early December, but co-captain Jack Milligan ’22 found that these setbacks strengthened the collective teamwork.
“We got together after break and began to decide as a team what works, what doesn’t work, what we’re going to do,” Milligan said. “Ultimately, we decided it was an energy and belief thing, we weren’t going out and playing with the confidence that we needed. We needed to go out with a little bit of swagger on the court and feel confident that we’re going to go out and crush the competition. Attitude pretty much changed the whole game.”
This mindset proved to be a catalyst of success throughout the season, as the team soon embarked on a five-match winning streak against its top competitors.
“I think the four guys that I came in with, the other seniors, we meshed very well from the beginning of our freshman year, and we’re all very close,” Milligan said. “Going into senior year, one of our goals is to have the entire team feel that closeness and bond.”
The team has created an inclusive and supportive community that’s worked to bring both veteran and new players together.
“The first years’ great energy has helped drive this team, and the rest of the team have stepped up, especially the seniors!” Woodward wrote in an email to the Orient. “We are excited for the future of the program, the culture we are building and the learning we are doing.”
Woodward, along with Assistant Coach Brendan McClintick, has introduced several new techniques over the season to raise the level of the team’s game. These include breathing techniques to increase energy and recovery and reading “What Drives Winning” by Brett Ledbetter as a team. Woodward credited this book as giving the team the mantra “Play Green”.
“[It’s] like a green light at the traffic lights to remind our student-athletes to be fearless when they train and compete and go all in,” Woodward wrote. “We also pioneered a giving of two green wrist bands ceremony just before NESCACs to celebrate those who …are part of this team and to remind them it is a privilege to be part of this special team and to wear the Bowdoin squash shirt.”
Woodward also highlighted collaboration and camaraderie between the players as crucial to the overall success of the season.
“We place a huge emphasis on cheering for each other,” Woodward wrote. “We are always the loudest team in this aspect and it has been recognized by other teams too.”
In fact, the Bowdoin men’s squash team has gained a reputation for not only its high-spirited fellowship but its unique huddles, in which the players sing sea shanties. At NESCACs, other teams gathered around to witness the performance.
“The idea we’ve been pushing the past few weeks is the idea of playing together and playing for the guys next to you,” Milligan said. “I think the sense of identity and the bonds we have, even though this sounds corny, have pushed us to success.”
As for the future, Milligan has high hopes for the dynamic team.
“It’s special to make history but I think you know, it’s something we want to make more regular going forward.”
Despite the impressive finish to the season, the Bowdoin Men’s Squash Team will unfortunately not travel to the nationals, thus ending the team’s season earlier than originally planned.
Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan confirmed the news in an email to the Bowdoin Orient.
“We conveyed to the College Squash Association earlier this week that our men’s squash team will not participate in the 2022 National Collegiate Men’s Team Championship following a recent violation of team standards,” Ryan wrote. “Individual members of the team that qualify for individual nationals scheduled for the first weekend of March will be able to participate in the individual championship tournament.”
Sam Pausman contributed to this report.