Nationally ranked squash team finishes season strong


Starting in mid-October, a record 54 student athletes tried out for the boys and girls squash teams. A week later, only 28 remained, all competing to be one of the players on the team who goes to nationals.

As the only high school squash team south of Virginia, Westminster squash was only able to play a few tournaments throughout the year. To kick off the new season, the SquashCats brought home their first win from the Jesters College Tournament, in which they faced off against college squash teams such as Miami, North Carolina, Davidson, and Vanderbilt.

“It was a good team win,” said freshman Tommy Rankin, “especially because the whole team was able to get some good experience.”

The following tournament was the Mercersburg Annual Tournament, held in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. The girls won the tournament that was held in early December. Unfortunately, the boys were unable to play in the their tournament scheduled in January due to the massive snowstorm that rocked the Northeast. However, both girls and boys got the opportunity to play at nationals, their final tournament, which was was hosted in Philadelphia from Feb. 11 to 14.

“Winning nationals was a big goal of ours,” said sophomore captain Vishan Patel. “For the boys to have been able to bring back a second national title for Westminster would have been awesome.”

Coached and guided by Rick Byrd, Liza Cowan, and Tom Rumpler, the team itself is a very diverse group. The top seven girls include seniors Juliana Freschi and Pierson Klein; junior Sarabeth Hoffman; sophomores Lauren Clement, Claire Bergman, and Sarah Lawrence McGill; and freshman Neeya Patel. With no juniors or seniors on the team, which is incredibly rare, the boys’ team is composed of sophomores Brantly Black, Zach Hay, Luke Jones, Drew Lingle, Douglas Nichols, and Vishan Patel; freshman Tommy Rankin; and eighth grader Dickson Bowman.

“It’s been really fun,” said McGill, “to have people from lots of different grades on the team.”

Structured in a ladder system, players are systematically ordered by their ranks on the team. Therefore, number one on the ladder would be the best player. To create this ladder, players competed with each other for placement in challenge matches. This year, many players moved significantly within the ladder. As one of the most notable improving players, Jones moved from number 15 up to 7 in a mere two months. The most highly anticipated challenge match of the year was the matchup between Jones and Black, with the winner claiming the last official spot at nationals. Jones prevailed in a three to one duel, and claimed the seventh position at nationals.

“The match was very important to me,” said Jones. “I just wanted to focus on my game and take it point by point.”

Without a doubt, nationals was the biggest tournament of the year. The girls went into nationals seeding third in Division III; the boys entered as the eleventh seed in Division IV. Although the divisions are used as a way to separate teams with different skill level, they separated the teams by gender as well. The girls first played Conestoga’s varsity team, advancing easily to the tune of seven to nothing. The boys drew Rye, a school in New York. The final match ended up as the deciding factor, with Bowman losing to Rye’s John DiPalma in a controversial match. The heated match saw players from both teams yelling at each other and at the referees. The boys team dropped to the consolation bracket and eventually finished 13th, ultimately losing to Brunswick C but beating Trinity School and Buckingham Browne & Nichols School.

“It was a disappointing way to end the year,” said Hay. “We had higher hopes going in.”

Meanwhile, the girls team moved on, beating New Haven six to one, highlighted by the comeback victory by Clement, who was down two games to none. They then played against MICDS, a school in Missouri, beating them six to one.

The girls team came out on top by winning the championship, having only lost two matches in the entire tournament. The girls would steamroll Potomac six to one, with Hoffman winning a close five game match and Klein clinching the victory for Westminster in her last match for the Cats.

“Winning nationals was great,” said Clement. “It made it feel like all of our practice paid off.”