Squash News - Alumni Updates
Posted 01/23/2012 10:45AM

Squash Alums

Squash Beyond Berkshire: A SquashDen Inside Scoop

In the past decade, Berkshire School has had a number of graduates active in the college squash scene. Ashley Eldredge ’02 played four years at the top of the ladder for St Lawrence University. Ori Goldman ’05 helped propel The University of Rochester Hornets to a top-ten program in his four years. Courtney Kollmer ’06 won Rookie of the Year honors for Hamilton College and played three more seasons as a varsity starter. Emily Russell ’07 played four years at Bates and, in her senior spring, pulled off the stunning feat of individual victories against UPenn, Yale and Trinity in a single weekend. (Russell is now working as an intern for US Squash in New York City, continuing her love of the game.)

Alex ArjoonComing into this squash season, there were four former Bears vying for starting positions on collegiate teams. Allie Hibbs ’09, entering her second year at Connecticut College, has maintained her position on the ladder, playing sixth and seventh for the Camels. Fellow NESCAC competitor Jason Shrubb ’11 has started out in the same positions for Bates; also in Maine, Maddie Hunsicker ’11 just won her first two collegiate matches at #4 for Colby. Finally, Alex Arjoon ’11 has entered the strong Franklin and Marshall ladder at the fourth position. The Squash Den caught up with these recent Berkshires graduates to find out about their fondest memories from squashing “under the mountain”; to hear about the adjustments they have had to make to compete at the college level; and to ask what advice they would provide to the current squashers at Berkshire.

For Arjoon, his best memories come from “the many adventures I had traveling with the team. Not only were they a great bunch of guys, but I think we learned a lot, spending so much time together.” Shrubb too recalls some epic adventures with fellow Bears and adds, “ I remember how sweet it felt when I learned that we were going to play in the A class for New Englands… plus all the little things like P90x on court, stair sprints with Will Turner, and the constant bus ride banter.”

Hunsicker also recalls fondly her experiences on the road, including “the December tournament at Yale with the boys’ team, all crammed in one bus in the middle of a blizzard.” She adds, “My favorite thing about Berkshire squash was the team dynamic: spending all winter together as one unit, with team dinners at the dining hall or the coach's house almost every night.”  As far as Hibbs’ best Berkshire memories, she also cites the communal experience: “We had such a diverse group of girls on the team, but were able to all get along really well and support one another.” Hibbs also tips her cap toward her Berkshire coach: “I was so lucky to have DK [Dr. Kohlhepp] as a coach because he always brought such positive energy to practice and matches.”

It will come as no surprise to our readers to learn that studying and squashing at the collegiate level are extremely demanding. As Arjoon notes, “The intensity in both areas is something that will take most newcomers time to adjust to,” but the time management skills that he developed here have given him a leg up at F & M. “The biggest academic adjustment at Colby,” observes Hunsicker, “has been the amount and caliber of reading I'm assigned.” Shrubb echoes this idea: “I think I have already spent more hours in the library at Bates than I had in my entire career at Berkshire!” Hibbs noted the different kinds of pacing and expectations in the academic realm: “You get your entire syllabus for the semester and it is your job to make sure you meet the deadlines. Your grade mostly consists of a midterm, final and maybe a few papers, or tests. You are definitely more independent and treated more as an adult in college.” Hibbs also offers an observation that her former Berkshire coach always preached: “Squash is an excellent outlet for stress, especially during finals.”

In terms of squash, Hunsicker has had to adjust to the increased expectations for off-court conditioning, including weight training, yoga practice, and cardio sessions.  Hibbs and Arjoon have found the squash experience to be similar, but with everything happening at a higher level. Shrubb has had to make the biggest change in his approach in order to succeed at the college level: “I have had to completely change my squash game. In high school, I got by with shooting and retrieving. I completely broke down my game, looked at my decision making, my movement, and my technique. It was a long process, but now I am starting to get a grip in this new style of play: more patience, more volleys, more control of the T, more deception in the front.”

Allie HibbsArjoon’s advice to current players is simple: “If you want to excel, you have to put in the time.” Hunsicker reiterates this advice, urging all of the Bears to work hard in school; to practice with complete focus; and to spend as much time conditioning as possible, since fitness “makes a HUGE difference in your fifth games and multiple-match days.” Shrubb offers a single, simple tactical pointer: “Volley! Taking the ball early throughout the match is the single most important thing you can do. Even a bad volley is better than a decent shot for which leave the ‘T,’ move to the back of the court and get in position for a straight drive.”

None of these four student-athletes regrets their decision to pursue their passion at the next level. Hunsicker adds some words of encouragement for any Bears who might aspire to follow a similar path: “Don't underestimate your ability to play college squash. Most teams hold more players than the nine places on the ladder; if you can make the team, you will improve immensely.” Shrubb is clear about the challenge and the returns: “From high school squash to the college level is a rough transition, but as tough as it is the rewards are great.” Hibbs is also an enthusiastic advocate: “If you are thinking about playing squash in college, I highly recommend it. The more you get involved in college, the easier it will be transitioning and making friends.”