Squash Center Hosts Its First Action
The Little Squash Center officially opened on Oct. 13 when an overflow crowd packed the gallery seating area to watch professionals Jon Power and John White, ranked #1 and #10 in the world respectively, in an exhibition match.
Built along the north wall of the field house, the center houses 10 regulation-size courts, two of which feature exhibition gallery seating for 138 spectators. "This facility is one of the finest in the country," said Jamie King, racquets director and coach of the men's squash team. "We're very excited about the opportunity to play matches at home, as well as for people on campus to come and watch competitive squash as spectators."
Ever since 1993 when the U.S. adopted the international standard for squash, widening the court from 18.5 to 21 feet, Hamilton's courts have been obsolete, requiring all matches to be played on the road. George F. "Jeff" Little '71, P'04, for whom the center is named, encouraged Hamilton to address this situation. A trustee of the College since 1993 and chairman of the Excelsior campaign, Jeff and his wife Claudia -- parents of Brad Little '04, who played on the varsity squash team as a student -- provided lead funding for the facility.
King noted that the center's "architecturally friendly design" provides a comfortable, welcoming environment for novice players. Unlike some courts with multi-glass walls and larger viewing areas, the Little Squash Center is "intimate, without feeling cramped."
Sally Cockburn, associate professor of mathematics and coach of the women's squash team, has found that the center is already attracting the attention of top high school players. "When I take recruits on a campus tour, they are astounded," she said. "We went from a position where no one would play us at home to having one of the best facilities on the college circuit."
With the dedication of the Little Squash Center comes a much-welcome home-court advantage for Hamilton's squash teams, who will host this winter's Liberty League tournament as well as matches against Stanford and Navy. "Last year we were in a tight match against Tufts at a Howe Cup match in Boston," Cockburn recalled. "Having that 'home-crowd advantage' really made a difference for them. We're excited to play with Hamilton students there to cheer us on."
Squash became a part Hamilton's athletic tradition in the 1940s with the construction of the Alumni Gymnasium. In 1980 the sport earned intercollegiate varsity status. Both the men's and women's teams have enjoyed noteworthy success throughout the years. The women, currently ranked #21 by the Collegiate Squash Association, won the Walker Division of the prestigious Howe Cup in 2000 and the Epps Division in 2004. The men earned the 2002 Barnaby Award for most improved team and in 2005 cracked into the top 20 rankings.