By MASON B. NIEDERHAUSER
First there was “repeat.” Then there was “three-peat.” But members of the BYU women’s racquetball team have challenged all creativity by winning the U.S. National Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships for the fifth time in a row this weekend.
“The level of play was the best I’ve seen,” BYU head coach Dennis Fisher said.
And rightfully so. With a number of nationally ranked players on both the men’s and women’s side, the field of competition was as strong as it’s been in the 25-year history of the tournament.
“Our players competed against some of the best racquetball players in the world,” Fisher said. “As a result, the team stepped up to the challenge and nearly everyone played their best racquetball ever. It really was the best I’ve ever seen BYU play.”
With first-place finishes from Janette Olsen, Shannon Bridge and Megan Morris, the Cougars dominated the lower-seeded positions, earning them enough points to walk away with the title.
“The girls have so much depth,” said David Shippen, the men’s third seed. “They just have so many players that play on a higher level.”
The women proved their depth again by controlling the court in doubles play as well. The teams of Karen Carter and Bridge as well as Samantha Hinton and Olsen both took home first-place honors.
Despite the fact that the men’s team did not fare as well as their female counterparts, its fourth-place finish was enough to place it third nationally.
The Cougar men received solid doubles performances from Shippen and Floyd Millett, who placed third in the second bracket. Merrill Dibble and Ron Scoville also played well, finishing second in the third bracket.
Although some may consider the BYU men’s and women’s joint-team finish of third place somewhat disappointing compared to first-place finishes in recent years, this year’s squad was competing against teams that had the ability to recruit players by offering scholarships and financial aid. BYU, on the other hand, is a club team, so it does not offer financial assistance.
“Our combined team and men’s team placement is not a true assessment of how strong our team is nationally,” Fisher said. “If we were to go head-to-head with any school in the country, and the talent they have within their student body, it wouldn’t even be fair. We would be far better.”