Wednesday, April 23, 2014
By Steve Craig firstname.lastname@example.org
Paige Buchanan of Portland remembers the first time her mother took her to play squash.
“Well, I thought it was pretty weird walking through this small little door to get to the court,” said Buchanan, 18, a freshman at St. Lawrence University.
That door opened not only a new game but also the opportunity to be a college athlete as a member of St. Lawrence’s varsity women’s squash team. A Waynflete School grad, Buchanan has a 1-1 record playing No. 8 and No. 9 on the nine-person scoring team and is 2-1 in exhibitions.
Her former Waynflete classmate, Isabel Agnew, is also playing varsity squash, checking in at No. 3 for Haverford (Pa.) College. Agnew is 1-3.
Both players got their start in similar ways: A parent who was familiar with the sport introduced them, then they began to play against adults at the Greater Portland YMCA where Isabel’s father, Alex Agnew, is a volunteer squash coach.
“Of the two, Paige is a better player,” Alex said. “St. Lawrence is just a much stronger team.”
St. Lawrence’s women’s team is ranked in the top 25, matching up with the same opponents as its No. 4 ranked men’s team.
“So we travel with the guys and play Harvard, Yale and all the really good schools,” Buchanan said.
With daily practices and the exposure to top-level competition, Buchanan says she’s seen a rapid growth in her game.
“A lot of people have told me how much I’ve improved and my game is looking a lot better, which is definitely good to hear,” Buchanan said.
For Isabel Agnew, who began to play as a high school sophomore, being thrust into the No. 3 slot has been a challenge.
“I was not expecting to play this high or against people this good. The competition has been very fierce. You can tell as soon as you get on the court and are warming up, these girls have clearly been playing since they were very young,” Agnew said.
Both young women believe squash helped them in the college acceptance process.
Agnew competed on Waynflete’s varsity soccer, Nordic skiing and lacrosse teams and knew she wanted to play squash in college.
“Any little thing that can boost your application will help and squash will definitely boost the application,” Agnew said. “It’s a small sport now but a lot of colleges are trying to increase it.”
Buchanan opted to wait to get on campus before declaring her intention to play but definitely worked her interest in squash into her application.
“There are not many people from the state of Maine who can put they play squash on applications,” Buchanan said.
Over the holiday break the two got together several times at the Y to practice together.
“It was fun to see how much we’ve improved,” Agnew said.
Bentley University’s four-player Maine connection all posted double-figure scoring in Wednesday’s 82-73 Northeast-10 win against Le Moyne. Andrew Shaw of Saco (Thornton Academy) scored 14 points, Tyler MacFarland of Rockport (Camden) and Alex Furness of Wells each had 11, and South Portland’s Keegan Hyland tossed in 10. Hyland, a junior guard, is seeing his first collegiate action after injury-filled stops at Gonzaga and Fairfield.
Hyland did not play for Bentley last season, and this year missed eight games due to illness. When he came back, South Portland’s all-time leading scorer notched 26 points in 34 minutes off the bench in his first two games. Bentley is 11-3, 5-3 in NE-10.
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