BYU’s combined racquetball team took second place at the 2013 National Intercollegiate Racquetball Championships, falling short to Oregon State. The tournament took place from March 27 to 31. The women took second place at the tournament, the men took third, and their combined score came together for an overall second-place win.
The BYU racquetball team is an extramural sport with 12 traveling athletes, six men and six women. During the entire month of January, the players on the racquetball team compete against each other in order to determine team rankings. The athletes are ranked one through six, and they maintain their ranking throughout the entire season. Athletes ranked in the No. 1 spot only compete against other athletes ranked No. 1 on their respective teams.
At the national tournament, the women’s team captain, Kristin Hatch, took first place in individual competition. She began competing on Tuesday, March 27, competed in nine matches and won them all to become the 2013 national champion. Hatch had never played racquetball before beginning her education at BYU.
“It was surreal,” Hatch said. “When I won, I was thinking of everything that it took to get there. A lot of work, sweat and tears. It was worth it. It was a big thing because I went from ground zero to national champion in three years.”
The men’s team captain, Cole Burr, took home a third-place win, only losing one match to an Oregon State athlete ranked No. 14 in the world. The BYU players are anxiously awaiting the new world rankings announcement, which should take place this summer. They claim that most of the athletes should be ranked within the top 150 in the world.
The national tournament is divided into different categories. First there are the singles and doubles brackets. Within those are gold, blue, red and white brackets. All of the athletes start in the gold bracket then, based on whether they win or lose their matches, filter down through the other brackets. This year all of BYU’s athletes stayed in the gold bracket.
Many of the players at BYU had never played racquetball before coming to college or even before their experience on the team. One of the main recruiting channels for the racquetball team is the physical education classes at BYU. All of the racquetball professors and instructors give out the information for the racquetball team and tryouts throughout their classes, and they are asked by coach Paul Snyder to keep their eyes peeled for potential prodigies.
“We are a developmental program,” Snyder said. “Many of the kids leave the program with sponsorships.”
All of the universities in Utah have racquetball teams, and BYU competes against them at almost all of its tournaments. Most of the tournaments are local, either in the state or in Idaho.
The racquetball team practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. This is the most convenient time for BYU to schedule the team to practice. Often the team has to ask free-playing students to vacate the courts so they have enough room to practice.
The racquetball season goes from October to March, and all of the athletes play singles and doubles. Many of the racquetball players have used their remaining eligibility and will be graduating this year. Only four of the 12 traveling players will be returning.
“It is heartbreaking to leave the racquetball team,” Burr said. “I would stay at BYU and take classes just to stay on the racquetball team.”
This was an excellent season for BYU, with many of the athletes having the best athletic seasons they have ever had.
“We had 13 individuals peak, play the best games of their lives, for five days,” Snyder said. “It was a pleasure to be there with them.”
The racquetball team welcomes any athletes to come and try out. Additional information can be found at racquetball.byu.edu.