2020-21 Squash Season Recap

Braedon Olson

The University Squash team recently concluded its 2020-2021 season. This year presented new, unprecedented hurdles for the program, ranging from the coaches’ preparations for the season to matches and competitions. Although this year did not look like previous years for the program, it proved to be a rewarding experience for players and coaches alike.

Planning for the season went a bit differently this year. Longtime head coach Jonathan Bridge did not actively seek out new players like he did in years past due to the sheer size of the squash program. He explains, “In recent years, it had grown well into the fifties in terms of number of students we accommodated, so I was a little less proactive in looking to encourage new players, but I was happy to welcome anyone who was interested in making the commitment. What we ended up with was forty very committed students.”

In addition to reducing recruiting, Coach Bridge had to implement new rules for practice in order to comply with Covid-19 protocols. Along with required mask-wearing during practices, only two players were allowed on a court at a time, with one referee standing outside of the court. Balls and door handles also had to be sprayed down after use. The practice schedule was altered as well in order to keep everybody spaced out; players on the Varsity Team practiced on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while members of the B and C Teams practiced on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In previous years, all teams practiced nearly every day. Despite the new rules and changed schedule, members of the squash team were still able to make the absolute most out of the year.

Similar to the planning stages, the actual season looked a lot different from previous seasons. With so many players, only three courts, and a myriad of Covid restrictions, players had to be spaced out across the athletic wing in order to get in some quality practice.

“There we got a little creative,” says Coach Bridge. “We’ve always used any flat surface we could, but with a number of beginners we went upstairs on the [indoor] track and made use of the larger walls there. Those players ended up getting very skilled in their fast-twitch, shorter practice work, and their eye-hand coordination really improved tremendously.”

While the beginner players worked on fundamentals on the indoor track, the more advanced players worked more on the courts. “Some of the more experienced players don’t work on [shorter practice work] because they’re using the full court and hitting full-length shots, but it was a benefit to those players in that they got better at the basics, and that helped them as they improved on more complicated drills.”

Having to adjust to the new schedule and spacing was challenging for players. Junior Isaac Haught, who played for the Varsity team this year, explains, “Variation was the biggest thing we struggled with. I would end up playing with the same partner most days a week and not really get a chance to improve all different aspects of my game because it was just about beating that one particular person.” Despite such challenges, however, the players showed resilience and worked tirelessly each day to improve. Coach Bridge states, “At every turn, the students responded positively to the way we adapted to the changing positions. Not one player complained.”

Unfortunately, due to Covid, all matches against other schools and squash programs were cancelled this year. However, several in-school tournaments and matches occurred to keep a competitive spirit among players. A program-wide tournament split everyone into four different teams. Players would play someone of a similar skill level from another team each Saturday, and this continued throughout the season. Challenge matches created a ranking system for the squash program, and players could move up and down the ladder depending on the results of their matches against other players in designated challenge matches.  In addition to these competitions, Coach Bridge teamed up with United States Squash and used their software to sign up University School’s players for the national rating system. The national rating system gave each player a rating based off of the results of head-to-head competitions against other players. That meant that challenge matches could affect one’s national rating, adding a further incentive to perform well in matches. Despite the lack of interscholastic competition, there were still quite a few opportunities for competition that kept players on edge.

After a crazy but successful season, the squash team looks to have a bright future for the 2021-2022 season. The team will be led by rising senior Elijah Dorroh, and assistant captains Cyril Andrews, Ian McKenna, and Peter McKenna will provide leadership on the track and in the weight room for speed and strength development. Rising sophomore Chase Greppin will not only provide a lot of skill and experience for the varsity team, but he will also work closely with Coach Bridge on developing new players. There will hopefully be a return to interscholastic matches, which is what Isaac Haught claims he will be looking forward to the most next year. He says that it is great to have that sort of competition, and that they are also a great opportunity for team bonding.

This year has certainly been anything but normal for the squash team, but a resilient group of players, a dedicated coaching staff, and the hard work of the maintenance staff made it so that this season was not a lost season. In fact, everybody seemed to progress this season, which makes next year’s squad all the more exciting.