Athletes try out different racket Squash: Bryn Mawr, Roland Park and Gilman are breaking new ground, which means traveling to Virginia and Philadelphia for most of their matches.

February 09, 1997|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Bryn Mawr squash coach Amanda Mann looks a little nervous. For the first time all season, she's worried that the Mawrtians could lose a match.

"When two of your top five players are out, it's a little nerve-wracking," said Mann. "There are a lot of unknowns."

Usually, there are no unknowns at the top of the Mawrtians' lineup. Sisters Anna and Lynnie Minkowski are unbeaten at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

On this day, however, Lynnie sits on the floor at the Racquet Club of Roland Park, crutches by her side. Torn ligaments in her ankle have sidelined her for the rest of the season.

Mann is left with only one sure victory instead of two. That might not be so bad except that No. 5 Blair Priest is out, too, and the opponent is rival Roland Park.

The match starts out as closely as Mann expects. Bryn Mawr's Jennie Quartner takes her best-of-five match over Sara Jones in three games, but Roland Park's Sarah Rodgers wins a lengthy battle with Liza Franyo, 3-1.

On the next four-walled court, the Reds' Kristin Raneri holds a 2-1 lead over Katie Brannan. They take turns ripping the small ball against the wall with their oval racket heads narrower than those used in tennis. Neither gets the better of the other for long.

Mann is getting more nervous.

The team that wins most of the seven individual contests wins the match. If Raneri can hold on, the Mawrtians would be 1-2 going into three matchups they're not quite sure of.

But Brannan rallies to win in an exhausting, five-game match, the longest of the day.

As the other matches finish, Mann finally relaxes.

No. 2 Katie MacColl, No. 3 Lisa Park and No. 4 Nina Festa all sweep their opponents, 3-0. The Mawrtians have won before Anna Minkowski even takes the court.

Minkowski wins in three quick games over Roland Park No. 1 Alli Harper.

Mawrtians 6, Reds 1.

Minkowski, a serious player with high hopes for the U.S. Squash Racquets Association's junior national championships next month at Meadow Mill Athletic Club, may earn a national ranking this year. But most of these players are just in it for fun; many are field-sport players who enjoy the individual challenge.

"It's all on you," said Harper, who has lost only to Minkowski this season. "When you're on the court, you can't get coaching, so you have to be able to coach yourself. You have to understand your opponent's weaknesses and strengths and capitalize on that."

Most of the players also are beginners because there is little squash played in this area. Only four local clubs have courts.

Bryn Mawr, Roland Park and Gilman, which has a club team, travel primarily to Virginia and Philadelphia for matches. St. James, a boys team from Hagerstown, is the only other high school team in Maryland.

Gilman has not fared as well as the girls' teams because most of its opponents have a couple of exceptionally strong players at the top and several more with experience.

Bryan Willats, Justin Harper, Brooks Marshall and Will Lanahan move around in the Greyhounds' top four spots.

"We're very competitive within our own team," said Harper, a junior who is Alli's brother. "But when we play other people, our first and second guys normally get killed. Third and fourth almost always win."

Most of those who try the sport end up hooked. None of the local teams has a big turnover except as a result from graduation.

"It's a great developmental sport for kids," said Frank Cushman, who owns the Meadow Mill and Roland Park clubs and is the Reds' assistant coach.

"They really get a sense of improvement as they go along. Just having experience counts for a lot."

Pub Date: 2/09/97

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