Volume 91, Issue 63

Wednesday, January 21, 1998

grape vine


Squashing the competition

By Justin Klein
Gazette Staff

Fifteen straight championships have definitely made the Western men's squash team the most feared squad in the country, but add another all-star line-up and undefeated record this season and the worries continue to grow for the rest of the league.

In the OUA, Western has not even given a glimmer of hope to any other school of the possibility of stealing the number-one ranking. Western plays in the West Sectional against Brock, McMaster and Waterloo – all three are teams that have been embarrassed by the overpowering Western players.

Last weekend, the Mustangs played in a cross-over tournament at Ryerson where schools from the West Sectional competed with schools from the East Sectional – including Toronto, Ryerson, McGill and Queen's.

In a squashing manner, Western showed why they are number one – sweeping Toronto, Ryerson and McGill 6-0, although narrowly defeating Queen's 4-2.

"The team really came through to overcome their opponents," Western coach Jack Fairs said. "The tournament just showed the overpowering strength of our team."

The Mustangs also compete in the NCAA intercollegiate league, where they face some of the strongest schools from the United States. Western fits in six league matches versus NCAA teams in the regular season. In late November, the Mustangs won victories over Cornell and Rochester (9-0) and defeated Pennsylvania 8-1. However, the high-ranked team from Princeton squeaked by Western 5-4.

"We've got a strong young team," Fairs says. "This team has a lot of potential and the only thing that can happen is that they can improve."

The Mustangs have put their hope in a very diverse and talented team. Freshman Mark Nolan of Norwich is one of the most talented and quickest players on the team, Fairs said. Nolan played in England where he established himself as one of the country's top players. When he decided to take an offer at Wycliffe, an American College, he was 17th in England in the 19-and-under category. Nolan spent two years at Wycliffe where he established himself before he saw the success that Western was experiencing and decided that he wanted to join the fun.

"I came here on a visit to see the school and the team," Nolan said. "And when I met the friendly guys and saw their skill, I knew where I was coming."

Western's other star, captain Pete Gildenhuys, is the number-one ranked player in the country. Gildenhuys, a third-year player, was named an all-American by the NCAA last season even though he is a Canadian.

The Mustangs will hit the courts again on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 when the provincial singles championship takes place at home.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998