Boys finish 15th in Class A at Andover, Girls earn 3rd in Class B at Pomfret
Although the boys and girls varsity sides faced different levels of competition at contrasting venues, Bears on both teams stepped up in the final weekend of the season.
Heading to Andover for the Class A championships, Coach Perkins' crew knew they were in for a a treat and a challenge. Having placed second in Class B last season, the boys were excited by news of their elevation to the top tier. Phillips Academy's spectacular new squash center proved just as good as reported, and the level of competition was similarly superb.
The first round on Friday evening went as predicted, with all Bears falling in straight games. Things brightened up on Saturday morning with #7 Kevin Rhee '21 snatching a victory in the first conso round. #5 Cooper Pearce '21, #4 Tad Koenigsbauer '20, #3 Burnham Johston '21 and #2 Andrew Patty '20 fought hard but would need to wait until the afternoon session to get in the win column. Co-captain #6 Karan Dhiman '19 fought as long as he could but was eventually forced to withdraw with a shoulder injury. (Dhiman is hoping to be fit in time for the Jamaican national championships this March.)
The Sunday morning session proved to be the best round for the lads as Berkshire came out firing, claiming four out of their last five matches as a team. The capper was provided by co-captain #1 Hussien El Desouky '19, playing his last match for the Bears and shutting down Groton's number one in four games. That same match clinched 15th position for the team, just ahead of Groton, and provided a fantastic culmination to a season of hard work.
"I think it was a great experience for the boys," commented Berkshire's squash ambassador Nick Matthew, who spent Friday night and Saturday morning with the lads. "They've seen what it takes to compete at that standard, and this gives them a clear sense of purpose for their training this summer and next year. Hats off to this year's seniors (El Desouky and Dhiman) for their leadership and to Coach Perkins' whole squad for a big step forward."
The Wolf encountered a different picture when he caught up with the lady Bears midway through the Class B championships at Pomfret. #5 Rylan Kennedy '21 and #6 Schuyler Coughlin '20 were finding success in the consolation brackets and wound up finishing fifth and eleventh respectively. #7 Helen Onufer '20, a late addition to the roster after Pro Vita departures and last-minute illness, was likewise battling hard for every point, knowing full well that her results could tip the balance for the team tally. (Onufer eventually claimed fifteenth place, earning Berkshire a crucial point.)
The top four Bears, meanwhile had already advanced to the semifinals in their respective flights. #1 Mia Lake '20 and #3 Amanda Miller '22 fell in their semifinal matches but roared back to take third in their divisions. The Beasts of Bedford showed their mettle once again, as co-captains #2 Kate Whitman '19 and #4 Elise Johnston '19 shredded all competitors in their path to reach the finals for a second straight year. Whitman came up just short in her bid, settling for second place. Johnston was not to be denied in her quest to repeat as champion of flight #4 and cap off an undefeated season.
When the dust had settled and the points were totaled, girls varsity squash achieved their strongest team finish of the 21st century: 3rd place overall in the Class B championship. Nick Matthew was upbeat about this result as well: "That bronze medal reflects massive amounts of hard work and team commitment. I am so impressed with the improvements these girls have made over the course of the year."
Each team graduates senior co-captains who will be difficult to replace. With some promising squashers on the way in and a strong foundation returning on both sides, however, Berkshire squash is poised to keep getting better in the years to come. In the meantime, Coaches Perkins, Kohlhepp and Matthew, along with their teams, will cherish the memory of an historic season just completed.
N.B. NEISA division placements are determined annually by the respective executive committees, taking into consideration head-to-head season results and USSquash player ratings.