Date Posted:01/29/2002,  8:00AM

Bowdoin Squash Splits Weekend Matches

The Bowdoin College Polar Bears hosted the Brown University and Tufts squash teams over the weekend of January 26-27. Brown, ranked in the top ten nationally in both men and women proved to be too difficult an opponent, handing the Polar Bears teams 9-0 defeats on Saturday. The Bowdoin men were able to challenge the #8 Brown Bears in 5 of 9 matches, with Jon Crowell ?05, Co-Captain Tom Costin ?02, Eric Toan ?05 and Grant White ?04 all winning one set, while Greg Clement ?04 lost in a close three-game match. On Sunday, the 13th ranked men hosted Tufts and came back strong to avenge the previous day?s defeat. Clement, Crowell, Toan, White, Matt Nowak ?04, and Mike Fensterstock ?04 paced the Polar Bears with straight-set victories. Peter Carter ?04 (9-0, 9-0, 9-0) and Tyler Steffey ?04 (9-7, 9-3, 9-3) won at #10 and #11 (exhibition matches).

The Bowdoin women could not win a single game against Brown, ranked #6 in the country, although Captain Cristin O?Brien ?02, Katie Irving ?04, Whitney Hodgkins ?03, and Eileen Schneider ?04 came close to doing it. Maybe the women Polar Bears, ranked #20, were saving their best matches for Sunday, when they hosted the #19-ranked Tufts University team. The Tufts-Bowdoin encounter was not only very even on paper, but would probably be repeated at the Division III Nationals in New Haven on Feb 15-17.

With matches played simultaneously on three courts, the contest began in Tufts? favor as they took a 2-1 lead with wins at the #6 and #9 positions, while P. Bear Whitney Hodgkins was impressive in winning 9-1, 9-0, 9-1 at the #3 spot. The second round of 3 matches netted Bowdoin 2 wins as #2 Katie Irving dominated her Jumbo opponent 9- 4, 9-0, 9-1, and sophomore Melissa Miness played her best match of the season to come back 3-9, 9-6, 10-9, 9-6 in a clutch win at the #5 position. With all tied up at 3 wins a piece, Cristin O?Brien (#1), Sara Kaufman ?02 (#4), and Alison Lavoie ?02 (#7) took the courts to decide the contest. Playing beautifully, despite her lack of match experience, Lavoie jumped to a 2-0 lead over her talented Tufts opponent, at the same time that O?Brien looked overpowering in taking the first set at the #1 spot. The large crowd at the Lubin Squash Center sensed that the victory was near, but things began to change. O?Brien?s opponent settled her nerves and found her skillful game, firing winners from all over the court to frustrate O?Brien and take a 2-1 lead. At the same time, Kaufman had fallen to a 0-2 hole in her match, and Tufts? #7 player had gallantly fought back against Lavoie to tie that match at 2-2. With each team needing 2 wins for the victory, Tufts sat in the driver?s seat, with a clear chance to sweep all three matches in play. At this critical time, O?Brien changed her strategy and began to mount her own comeback, quickly winning the fourth set and jumping to a small lead in the deciding fifth. Also regrouping was Lavoie, who matched her opponent?s outstanding play and took a small lead in her fifth set. The seesaw battles in these two matches had spectators on the edge of their seats, with one eye on each court. Clearly, Bowdoin needed both wins, as Kaufman, though playing better, was still down 0-2. Almost in perfect coordination, O?Brien brought the crowd to their feet with a 10-9 fifth-set victory, while the Tufts #7 broke Bowdoin?s hearts with a 9-7 defeat of Lavoie. There was no time to ponder the ?could have-been?s,? as, seconds later, the cheers from Kaufman?s court signaled that she had won the third set (10-8) and, suddenly, Bowdoin still had a pulse. The match stood at 4 wins per team, and the entire Sunday crowd quickly settled behind court number seven, while Kaufman reloaded on water, oxygen, and coach?s advise. What she heard was somehow unexpected: the match was tied and it was all up to her. She had been so happy to win that game, to start playing better. But now, she had the all the responsibility on her racquet, legs and heart. Kaufman also had the loud support of the crowd, and with every good shot, and every good ?get,? she grew more confident, and the crowd louder. The fourth set could have gone either way, but Kaufman was too tough and took it 9-7. Kaufman then channeled all the pressure and responsibility to summon her best game of the season, attacking every shot early and hitting winner after winner to overwhelm her opponent 9-0 in the fifth and clinching game. The cheers were loud, the hugs and smiles plenty. The women squash team had performed admirably in the clutch, and theirs was the 5-4 victory.