The Men’s and Women’s Squash teams opened the 2019-20 season this past week with mixed results; the women won against both Bowdoin (7-2) and Vassar (9-0), however the men lost a tight match at Bowdoin (5-4), dropping their previously held 29-match winning streak against the Polar Bears. The next day, the men’s team came back strong to wreck Vassar 9-0.
These first matches follow a challenging preseason for the Squash program. Pat Cosquer ‘97, the head squash coach for 11 years, left this spring for a coaching position at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, leaving Bates Athletics to search for a replacement. Additionally, renovations at the Bates squash facility this fall limited the Bobcats’ ability to practice during the preseason.
On Nov. 15, Bates traveled to Bowdoin for their season-opening match. In this match, the men’s team suffered five losses at the first, fourth, fifth, eight and ninth positions. Jesper Phillips ‘22 and Garon Rothenberg ‘20 won the No. 2 and 3 positions with four games each. First-years Jairaj Singh and Sultan Hashmi both won their first matches as Bobcats in the No. 6 and 7 positions, winning three games each.
Omar Attia ‘21, last year’s No. 3 player during the NESCAC Championships, will be absent from the team until returning from abroad at the end of the year.
The women’s result was more favorable with seven women winning their matches to solidly beat Bowdoin.
All of the winning Bobcats ended their matches in three games, finishing the Polar Bears off with little fanfare. Team captain Luca Polgar ‘20 and Katie Manternach ‘21 won in the No. 1 and 2 positions; first-years Erika Parker, Victoria Haghighi, Cordelia Dotson and Lucy Moseley began their Bates careers with wins at the No. 5, 6, 7, and 9 positions. Natalie Bachman also earned a point in the No. 8 spot.
The next day, Nov. 16, both teams played at home, dominating Vassar 9-0. Fifty-four games of squash were played, and fifty-four games of squash were won by Bates, breaking in the new courts with style.
Yet, getting to the start of season was not as easy as it has been in the past. Numerous hurdles stood in the way of the team this season, changing the dynamic of their preseason practices.
As Athletics conducted the search for a new coach, Head Tennis Coach Paul Gastonguay took the lead, directing the Squash team until just last week.
“Honestly, it was great having Coach Gastonguay,” Bonnell said. “This isn’t the first time he’s acted as interim squash coach…he knows how to coach a team; he’s not an expert in squash but that didn’t make a big difference for us.”
“He helped us with mental stuff, with administrative things,” Polgar added. “If we needed anything he was there, if we needed advice he was there. Having him was a huge help for the team.”
Although Bates Athletics named Reinhold Hergeth, a native of South Africa and a 2013 graduate of Trinity College, as the successive Head Squash Coach on Sept. 30th, he was unable to officially take up the post until Nov. 13, when his new visa was approved.
While at Trinity, Hergeth helped the Bantams win three national titles. After graduation, Hergeth began coaching as the lead professional and later the head professional at Chelsea Piers in Stamford Conn.
And if changing coaches isn’t enough, the Squash teams also had to find alternate courts to practice on during preseason. This fall, Bates Athletics renovated the six off-campus squash courts, pouring new cement, replacing the old wood floor and redoing the walls, completing much needed work, but also rendering the courts inaccessible.
“The floors were kind of springy in weird ways,” Men’s captain Graham Bonnell ‘20 said. “Some of the floor boards would have different amounts of give than other floor boards so they went in and poured fresh concrete into the courts and then put completely new wood floors in and replaced the walls.”
“We basically have a full set of new courts,” women’s team captain Luca Polgar ‘20 added.
Because the Bobcats were unable to use their home courts during preseason, the team traveled to Bowdoin two to three times a week, spending significantly more time on the road than previous preseasons.
In past years, the Squash teams would hit the courts three to four times a week with some running and lifting added in. However due to the construction, the Squash teams focused on their physical fitness more than they have in previous years. The men’s team traveled three times a week to Bowdoin and the women twice, leaving at 6:30 and returning around 9:30 for an hour of court time.
Just after the start of the season, the renovations were completed and the Squash teams were able to resume practice at Bates’ home courts.
This year, the Men’s and Women’s Squash teams are aiming to make the NESCAC finals and compete in the B-flight at nationals, the section in which the nationally No. 9-16 teams compete against each other. Both teams have historically sat on the edge of the B and C-flights; last year the women won first in the C-flight and the men finished 21st in the nation. Additionally, Polgar named the Sportsmanship Award as a “set goal” for the team.
The Squash teams will travel on Dec. 7 to take on both Wesleyan and Trinity. Following this, Bates will spend the 2019-20 season playing primarily in their home courts. Stay tuned for information regarding fan busses this January from athletics!