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One club sport not squashed

Theresa Civantos | Friday, January 18, 2008

When most people hear the word “squash,” they think of a dish passed around the table at Thanksgiving. For a growing number of Notre Dame students, however, squash is a sport that has grown into a passion.

“People think it’s a vegetable,” said Randy Rainosek, a member of the Notre Dame Squash Club. “It’s such a great sport though.”

Squash Club treasurer Pedro Gochicoa agreed, saying that squash players get to travel, meet a lot of people and get exercise in an exciting way.

Squash is a sport similar to racquetball and is somewhat popular in the northeastern United States. At the college level, nine players compose a squash team, with each player engaging in a one-on-one match with a player from the opposing team until one team has won five matches. Professionally, squash is an individual sport like tennis.

Many Ivy League schools have varsity squash teams, leading to a belief that playing squash gives competitive edge to college applicants at top-tier schools.

“We do field a lot of e-mails from high school applicants wanting to play squash here,” said Javier Palomo, the club’s vice president. “They’ll send us their resumes, and we have to tell them we can’t help them get in; we’re not a varsity sport yet.”

The Notre Dame Squash Club has been around since the 1980s, Rainosek said, but “it disappeared for a while.” In 2003, the club made a major comeback under the leadership of past president James Zhang.

“The club was pretty weak for a while; James Zhang and Geoff McCuen really brought it back,” Gochicoa said. “James Zhang started informally recruiting his friends to join in his sophomore year.”

That style of attraction remains. The club does not formally recruit, nor does it hold try-outs to join.

“You’re not required to have any level of skill to join the club,” Palomo said. “We definitely encourage people to join no matter what their skill level at Squash.”

Squash, although similar to racquetball, is tougher to master, Palomo said.

“One thing about squash that makes it different from racquetball is that the ball doesn’t bounce as much,” said Palomo. “You have to practice a little more to start really having fun with it.”

The squash team will be competing in the West Coast Round Robin from Feb. 1-3 at the University of Southern California. The squad will also compete at the national championships at Harvard from Feb. 15-17.

Recently, the Squash Club has gained prestige both on and off campus. It won best club of the year in 2007, and past president James Zhang won best president in 2007, as well. The club won the “emerging teams” competition at Princeton in 2006.

“I never played squash before I got here,” Rainosek said. “I played tennis, and once it got too cold to play outside, I started playing squash.”

“It’s a great sport; we definitely encourage people to join,” Palomo said.