January 30, 2014

Up-and-coming club team holds its own

The University’s squash club has been around for less than two years, but they’re already making waves.

Fourth-year Ameer Allaudeen founded the club in spring 2012 to replace a squash RSO whose members had, for the most part, graduated. Beginning with only two players with competitive experience, the club has quickly expanded to a roster of 12, including a larger group of recreational players.

“I’ve been playing squash for most of my life,” said Allaudeen, who picked up squash as a middle-school student in Singapore. “I wanted to keep playing at a competitive level by establishing a club team.”

After participating in a handful of tournaments last year, the men’s team is halfway through its first full season in the College Squash Association. It’s ranked 58th with a record of 5–1.

The club started its season with a November 8 loss to Northwestern, finishing fourth out of eight teams at the Mid-America Collegiate Cup despite missing three of its top five players. It’s been  unbeaten since; on Friday, it beat its crosstown rivals 7–2.

Allaudeen’s goal for the team is to make the Men’s College Squash National Team Championship in February. “We are aiming for a top 40 or 45 finish nationally,” he said.

Squash is a racquet sport akin to tennis, but instead of hitting the ball over a net, players share a single court surrounded by four walls and aim the squeezable rubber ball at the front wall. As in tennis, players have one bounce to return the ball. However, the ball can ricochet off the side and back walls, introducing subtleties of spin and angle.

“The sport is pretty physically and mentally intense, requiring both strategy and fitness,” said second-year Seth August, the club’s treasurer. A 2003 Forbes article rated squash the healthiest sport to play, with an especially large number of senior players.

As a one-on-one sport, squash is a good litmus test for one’s character. “You can learn a lot about another person by how he conducts himself on the court,” August said.

American squash is more East Coast than Midwest, but Chicago’s team has an international flavor; the sport is huge in Singapore and South Asia. The club is coed, with “a good mix of experienced and beginning players,” August said.

The club has a close relationship with METROsquash, which uses squash as a way to engage students both academically and physically. METROsquash helped the club get off its feet, and in return club members volunteer at the urban squash program’s practices.

This weekend the team is headed to St. Louis to face off against Wash U, Sewanee University, and the University of Minnesota in its last regular season tournament.