Date Posted:11/22/2002,  8:00AM

Women's Squash Preview

BRUNSWICK, Maine - After a 2001-2002 season that left the Polar Bears clinging to the nation?s #16 spot, Bowdoin hopes to rekindle the success of their 2000 Division II title and 2001 top-10 ranking. With returning senior leadership from those victorious teams boosted by excellent recruiting and a growing developmental program, Bowdoin women?s squash appears ready to again compete for a spot in the nation?s top 10. Coach Tomas Fortson, in his third year at the Polar Bear helm, has been very pleased with early season workouts and expects that the team?s hard work will translate into match results.

Riddled with attrition and injury, the 2001-2002 edition of Bowdoin Women?s Squash started eight newcomers to the top nine. This untested squad used the season to gain necessary match experience and hold a spot in the nation?s second division.

The 2002-2003 team returns four of the top nine from last season and welcomes back seniors Merrill Muckerman (St. Louis, Mo) and Lindy Stanley (Winnetka, IL) who did not compete last season. Joining them in the top six ladder positions will be Katie Irving '04 (Newport, RI), Whitney Hodgkins '03 (Birmingham, MI), and Eileen Schneider ?04 (Rochester, NY). Hodgkins and Irving found success last season at the 2 and 3 spots respectively, compiling the two best win records on the team.

Hodgkins, Stanley, and Schneider will round out a solid middle of the ladder, while a dedicated and improving group of players will compete for spots at positions 7-9. Led by veterans Melissa Miness ?04 (New York, NY), and Rachel Rones ?03 (Rye, NY) a mix of experienced and developing players drawing from the Freshman through Senior classes will round out the line-up. This is a welcome contrast to the previous season where Bowdoin was often weak or even unstaffed at the lowest positions. Coach Fortson has developed a thriving JV program and expects the interest will translate into a solid stock of players fighting for wins at all positions.

Heading up the top of the ladder, Irving and Muckerman should be joined by Freshman phenomenon Elpiniki Clement (Rosemont, PA). Clement is one of the top five American recruits in her class and will likely serve as Bowdoin?s number one, matching up with other marquee players in the Bears tough schedule. She will face off against world-ranked players from Trinity and Penn, while also leading Bowdoin through a season-opener at Dartmouth, matches with Amherst and Williams, and the traditional CBB rivalry.

Coach Fortson recognizes Clement?s achievements at the junior level where she finished the last season ranked in the top-10 nationally and received the prestigious DeRoy Sportsmanship Award. Fortson commented that ?She could be playing for any team in the country and we couldn?t ask for anything better in terms of her character and dedication for the type of team we are trying to become.? Fortson is excited about the duo of Clement and Muckerman in the ladder?s top slots. ?We literally have two number one-caliber players in Merrill and Niki.? Following a year abroad in France, Muckerman looks to re-capture her individual ranking in the nation?s top-30 achieved during her sophomore campaign. With these two supported by the experienced and gritty trio of Irving, Hodgkins, and Stanley, Bowdoin looks ready to climb the rankings.

Rated #13 nationally in a College Squash Association pre-season poll, the Bears have set their immediate sights on St. Lawrence, Amherst, and Bates as they look to finish the season competing for a spot in the top-10 and the Division II crown awarded to the nation?s 9th-placed team. The CBB championship also looks attainable after losing all four matches to Colby and Bates last season. The girls in Black look forward to a season full of road trips, including round robins at Dartmouth, Wesleyan, Williams, and Penn, finishing up at the national tournament at Yale. Home matches against Bates and Colby are slated for February 4th and 5th. Women?s squash opens the season Friday, November 22nd against Franklin & Marshall at Dartmouth.