Squash team stumbles over the border
By Justin Klein
The Western men's squash team didn't waste much time celebrating after winning the Ontario championship in early February. After capturing their 15th straight title, the team began practising right away for the NCAA championships held on Feb. 19-22 at Princeton University and the preparation paid off.
Ranked sixth overall in NCAA polls throughout the year, Western received a surprising fourth-place seeding for the championship tournament. However, they were unable to live up to the seed and finished in sixth place in North America.
With a total of 46 teams competing in this national tournament, the field was too wide to crown a championship from the vast competition, so only the top eight seeds could battle for the coveted Potter trophy, awarded to the champ.
In the first round, Western faced the fifth seed, a strong squad from Yale University. All the matches were close, but Yale eventually won 6-3 to advance to the semifinals.
This put Western in the consolation round, where they defeated a strong William's University team, to keep their hopes alive of capturing the consolation title. However, the top-ranked team from Princeton was upset by Amhurst University in the first round, which meant that Western would play Princeton for fifth place. The tournament favourites proved to be too powerful for the Mustangs, who fell 8-1 to finish sixth best on the continent.
"We seemed to be overconfident going into the NCAA," Western's Erik Zaremba said. "We thought our competition was less stiff than they really were, but we are looking to improving next year."
Although the team lost their bid for the NCAA title, veteran Mustang Pete Gildenhuys had an excellent tournament. After winning the silver medal in the OUA singles this year and being undefeated against Canadian competition, Gildenhuys had a lot of pressure to carry the team. Against tough competition, he helped Western reach the quarter-finals in the tournament before falling to Amir Givreon from Princeton.
With a talent for the game that is highly respected by top competition, Gildenhuys returned to the United States again on Saturday and reached the quarter-finals of the NCAA individual championships at Amhurst College.
His finish in the top eight in America should give him the honour of being named an All-American for the second year in a row, Western head coach Jack Fairs said. He added this is the greatest honour for a university squash player, as it is so seldom that a Canadian is recognized and is worthy enough to achieve the award.
Teammate Erik Zaremba said Gildenhuys is more than just an outstanding squash player he is a great leader and a remarkable captain.
"Pete did an outstanding job as a player and as a captain this year," Zaremba said. "He leads by his actions and always can be expected to keep the team in close competition. He is a truly great squash player."