Notes From an Epic Squ’eason

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Dr. Kohlhepp

Dr. A.J. Kohlhepp

 

 Here’s what we were wondering at the start of the girls’ varsity squash campaign: How strong would our top three be, and who else was going to make the roster? Would our seniors’ leadership styles mesh or lead to disharmony in Bear nation? Would the Wolf ever make it back across the Atlantic? Maybe most importantly: who was on aux???  

 Tryouts was the first puzzle as a number of prospects were still playing fall sports when the winter began. Eventually, we confirmed Alice Fisher ‘22, Libby Blodgett ‘23 and Danielle Page ‘23 from last year’s competitive crew; elevated Catherine Ryan ‘24 from JV; and welcomed three newbies: Kiki Grace ‘24, Catherine Yan ‘24 and Elle Dillmeier ‘25. These seven joined the nucleus of Kiro Manoharan ‘22, Amanda Miller ‘22 and Ellie Tiedemann ‘24.

 The early stages of the campaign were mixed. Easy wins against Canterbury and Hopkins were offset by losses to Greenwich Academy and Nichols, the latter maintaining possession of the (missing) Clough Cup. There was a lot of squash left to play, but we rolled into 2022 with the big three dominating as predicted, the newcomers improving, and the leadership starting to gel.

 Illness and injury were on our minds all season long. The Bears got past Pomfret, Westminster and Kent lacking top starters, only to fall short against Millbrook in a worrisome home defeat. (The Bears would return the favor with interest in the final match of the season, taking down the Mustangs 5-2.)  With a stellar winning percentage against New England teams (13-2), the Bears looked strong going into New Englands. But would those team results translate into the individual format of that tournament, which we were also hosting? 

 Welcoming fifteen Class C & D teams, the Bears proved both hospitable and fierce. Kiro and Ellie swept to their respective titles in the #1 and #3 positions, securing All-NEPSAC status for Kiro and honorable mention for Ellie. Amanda played one of the greatest matches of her career but came up a tiny bit short against Suffield’s standout #2. Alice & Kiki & Libby & Danielle each managed at least one victory, and the collective effort was good enough for second place overall, matching the finish in 2020. (Elle and the Catherines were MVPs in their own right as they helped D.K. & the visiting coaches run the event.) 

 After finding success in the individual format of New Englands, we returned to a team format for Nationals. Again we wondered whether our opponents would be able to compete against our top three and who among the bottom four would get in the win column. As to the first query, Kiro & Amanda & Ellie sliced and diced all comers, seldom going past the minimum of three games. Down the ladder, it was a different story as the Bears shared the burden:  Alice swiped a win against Roland Park (MD) to seal that match; Kiki eked out a five-game thriller against Rye (NY); and Kiki and Libby both came through in five against HLM (PA). Those clutch wins propelled us to the gold medal match against the rowdy Rams of MICDS (St. Louis, MO). 

 The Bears ran out of answers in the final. Danielle gave it her all in the last tilt but the Rams’ strength down the ladder led them to hoist the championship trophy. But Berkshire had nothing to hang their heads over. Coming into the event as the ninth seed out of sixteen, the Bears had been playing with house money ever since that first round win. Not only that, but the girls played start to finish with heart and with class. This spirit and sportsmanship was noticed by USSquash administrator Kim Clearkin, who pulled the team aside after the final match to commend them. 

 As a team, GVSquash had an historic season. There are many ways to demonstrate excellence, of course, and the match ledger only reveals part of the story. Our three gracious seniors did all they could to create an amazing experience for the entire team while the coaches enjoyed another chapter in their long-running partnership. We even managed to survive the drives, the parking struggles, and the bathroom emergencies to Philadelphia and back, with Purple Hats and Shivers at every step of the journey. I have to say that the twenty-first (and final) winter as varsity squash coach at Berkshire was truly a season to savor.