Squash team looks to compete

Despite squash being an unpopular sport in the south, the girls and boys Westminster
squash teams consisting of 7 th -12 th graders and led by seniors Thomas Rankin, Neeya Patel, and Zain Palanpur pulled through with several fantastic victories during the US National High
School tournament held in Connecticut from February 1-3. The Westminster boys’ A and B
teams were placed into divisions two and four while the Westminster girls’ A team was put into
division three for this year’s tournament. The girls’ team had terrific victories during their fight for the national championship, as they won 5-2 in the Consolation Finals against Episcopal
Academy, 4-3 in the Consolation Semis against Blair Academy, and 4-3 Consolation 7 against
Berkshire School. The boys’ A team had excellent victories during nationals as they beat HLM
during the Classic State Playoff with a score of 5-2 and 6-1 in Round 16 against Conestoga. The
boys B team also had great victories as they won 4-3 in the ¾ Playoff against Rye, another 4-3
win in the Quarters against St. Paul’s, and 5-2 during Round 16 against Greenwhich.
“One of the things that is a particular challenge for Westminster kids as we had two
nationals is that all of the other 206 teams benefit from a competitive season where they’re
playing squash matches against other schools twice a week,” said head coach Liza Cowan. “For
us, it’s really the first time that our kids compete as a team and also, it’s one of the first times that we’re playing as many as four matches over two days.”
Despite the struggles of being able to compete against other teams, the team was given a
special opportunity to host their first annual Green and White Match held all day on January 12
against two teams from Chattanooga, the Baylor School and McCauley, in which every single
Westminster squash player was able to play a competitive match.
“I am so thankful that Westminster was able to find two teams for us to play against
because I think it really challenged all of us as a team to push ourselves,” said sophomore Dallas
Clement. “It was super cool to be a part of Westminster’s first annual Green and White match
and I look forward to it again next year.”
Unlike the many other sports held at Westminster or in the south in general, the
Westminster squash team plays the majority of their season against each other in efforts to train themselves for the final day of nationals.
“For our squash team, it’s pretty much playing amongst ourselves for most of the
season,” said junior Dickson Bowman. “Since we don’t really have anyone to play squash
against down south, we have to travel up.” Although this came as a disadvantage for the team
again this year, the team continued to push through each practice with the help of their
teammates support and competitive spirit. Their intense and motivated spirit was carried all the
way up to nationals where both the Westminster girls’ and boys’ teams played great and came
out of nationals with several different successes.
“The nationals was my favorite part of this season because of the intensity of our whole
team cheering each other on during our matches,” said senior Neeya Patel. “Since a lot of parents come to watch their kids play up in the north, it’s good to have an environment where you have some people you know watching and supporting you as well.”
With this year being the first year without legendary coach Rick Byrd as leader of the
team, Cowan has eagerly stepped up to fill in for his position. Because of Cowan’s past
experience working as an assistant Westminster squash coach, it helped provide an eased
transition for her as she moved up into a higher coaching position. As her first year as head
coach of the boys and girls squash team, Cowan’s primary focus was to make sure the squash
team consisted a technical coach to take the place of Byrd. Luckily, Westminster was thrilled and honored to be able to welcome Rubin Phillips, a pro coach who works at Windy Hill, to come
down to Westminster and work as a community coach. Phillips, who worked alongside Cowan
and coach Tom Rumpler, another excellent community coach who has been here since the
founding of Westminster squash, began an on campus clinic with Rumpler in which it occurred
every Wednesday. This ongoing clinic became a top hit for all the players on the team as they
continued to strive to work towards their goal of winning nationals. Phillips also instigated for the squash team to begin doing conditioning this year in order to help the them further improve on their playing stamina and endurance.
“Adding in the conditioning into our squash practices definitely pushed us to branch out
of our comfort zone as we began working even harder than ever and it also gave us an
opportunity to bond as a team while enduring through the pain together,” said Clement.
In hopes of winning a national championship next year, the team plans to continue
pushing themselves and their teammates and also having the mindset of playing together as in
more of a team sport rather than an individual sport.