Few programs have had the type of success that the Brunswick squash team has enjoyed for the last decade.
For the last nine seasons, the Bruins have been the proud recipient of the Brandes Cup, given to the team that goes unbeaten in the regular season in New England, as well as advancing to the National Championship match five times.
Unfortunately for head coach Jim Stephens and his Bruins, they have come up one win shy of calling themselves National Champions in those five trips to the finals.
With a new season about to begin Brunswick will look to follow its 19-1 record last season with equal dominance but according to Stephens all he asks of his team is that they give a champion's effort on the court.
"The first two years we made the National Championship it was frustrating to come up short because we had the better team," Stephens said. "Last year we just ran into a better team in Episcopal. All I ask of these kids is to play their best and if we fall short playing at the top of our game so be it."
The Bruins will have their fair share of challenges to overcome on the road to defending the Brandes Cup and their NEISA Championship as they will be without last years No. 1 and co-captain Sam Haig, now playing at Yale, No. 3 Spencer Hurst, and co-captain Leighton Van Ness who all were lost to graduation. Yet Brunswick boasts a bevy of talent returning from last season in the form of the senior trio of Matt Mackin, John Dudzik, and captain Parker Hurst who will man the positions of one through three respectfully.
"The fact is we've lost some very talented players but we're motivated to get back to the National Championship finals again," Hurst said. "It's going to be tough but we'd like the chance to take on Episcopal again for the title."
Brunswick's season begins today at 4 p.m. when it travels to Rye Country Day School. Saturday, they will hit the road again for a tri-match with Exeter and host school Westminster. Their coach has already seen the intangibles that make good teams great in the 2009-2010 Bruins.
"This team has a great spirit about them and a solid work ethic," Stephens said. "I'm very pleased with the commitment they have shown to getting better and the positive attitude they bring to the court everyday. As a coach you can't ask for anything more from your team."
AT THE HELM: This is Stephens' 25th season as head coach of the Brunswick squash program. His assistant coach is David Bruce. Last season the Bruins went 19-1 winning the Brandes Cup and the NEISA title. The lone loss for Brunswick came in the National Championship final when they fell to Episcopal of Philadelphia.
WHO'S GONE: The Bruins will be without No. 1 co-captain Sam Haig, No. 3 Spencer Hurst, co-captain Leighton Van Ness, and Harry Keeshan who were all lost to graduation.
WHO'S BACK: Returning from last years team for Brunswick will be Matt Mackin, John Dudzik, captain Parker Hurst manning the top three spots for the Bruins. Added depth will come in the form of No. 4 Cooper Briggs and No. 5 Chris Baldock.
STRENGTHS: Fitness and a strong work ethic combine with great depth to give Brunswick plenty of strong areas heading into the season. "Our depth is a definite strength because our top three players are interchangeable in terms of talent," Stephens said.
"We are strong right down the entire lineup and that has been a trend we've had for the last couple of years."
WEAKNESSES: Any weakness all goes back to getting back to the National Championship and being the last team standing. "We've lost in the finals five times and in past seasons we have had fatigue set in late and weren't at our best in the championship match," Stephens said.
"This season we need to stay healthy and keep our legs fresh for February."
SHOWDOWNS: The biggest matches on the Bruins' schedule come in the form of Belmont Hill (Feb. 3 Away), Taft (Jan. 30, 2:15 p.m., Home) and Choate (Dec. 16, 3:30 p.m., away). The National Tournament will be held on Feb. 5 and the New England tournament will be on Feb. 26.