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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Women’s racquetball team claims national titles at intercollegiate tournament

The women’s team ended up taking third place overall out of 10 teams, and the men’s and women’s teams took fifth place overall out of 19 teams.
Andy Hawthorne
Left to right: Mallory Bible, Julia Stein, Angie Case, Natty Trunko competed in the 2024 USA Racquetball National Intercollegiate Championship.

As part of the annual USA Racquetball National Intercollegiate Championship held from March 15-18, Baldwin Wallace University achieved a high overall ranking regardless of only some of the potential players competing in the tournament. 

Each year, the BW Racquetball Club selects its top six men and women to represent the school at the tournament. With only four of the women being able to attend, the club faced a challenge in a tournament that tallies points per individual. 

This year’s team is reinforced by the return of two key athletes, including senior team captain Julia Stein and junior club president Angie Case, alongside the addition of two promising newcomers, first-year Mallory Bible and Natty Trunko. 

At last year’s nationals, Stein and Case took home the gold medal for doubles after a nearly two-decade drought. 

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Stein said she took training for nationals much more seriously than in previous years since it was her final year competing at the collegiate level.  

“I would go in the mornings to practice serves and drill by myself,” Stein said. “I focused on eating healthier and practiced visualization and affirmations, which ended up really benefiting me mentally.” 

Case also dedicates her preparation to the Racquetball Club’s Head Coach Andy Hawthorne and the team’s persistence. 

“Even though it is a club sport, we practiced two hours three times a week,” Case said. “Everyone tried their best to make it to practice which benefited us all. Especially Coach Andy, who volunteers his time to make us all better.”  

The 2024 USAR Intercollegiate Nationals took place in Tempe, Arizona, hosted by Arizona State University from March 13 to March 16. The initial two days were deemed successful for the women’s team, with Julia clinching a win in her first three matches as the No. 6 seed, propelling her to the finals. 

Additionally, Stein and Case were awarded a top seeding, earning them a bye in the first round. The duo secured a decisive win in the semi-final doubles match against Brigham Young University, earning them a spot in the finals.  

Stein’s match kicked off the third days’ events. Before this, Stein had never reached the finals throughout her collegiate career, marking a significant milestone. The last female BW athlete to claim a singles gold medal was in 2009. 

Stein faced off against a familiar opponent, Erin Slutsky from ASU. The two were former teammates of the junior USA team.  

“I have played against her in doubles but have never faced her in singles,” Stein said. “I was also familiar with her style of play as we have known each other since both being on Team USA in 2018.” 

In the first game, Stein surged ahead with a 6-0 lead. Despite Slutzky’s sporadic points, Stein maintained her dominance, securing a 15-8 win. However, in the second match, Slutzky swiftly claimed a 7-4 lead and extended it to a commanding 12-6. 

Following a brief timeout and chat with Hawthorne, Stein returned with a refreshed strategy. Slowly but steadily, she clawed her way back, eventually tying the match. 

With tensions rising and Slutzky losing her aggressive edge, she ultimately succumbed to Stein’s pressure. 

With 2 points left for Stein, Slutzky conceded the match by storming off the court in frustration, leading to Stein’s victory. 

“On my 13th point, Erin was crowding my swing and made contact with my racquet,” Stein said. “She threw her goggles onto the floor, they shattered, and she walked out of the court, telling the referee that she forfeited the game. It was upsetting winning to a forfeit, but I know I had the momentum and would have finished it in that second match.” 

Following Stein’s championship win, she geared up for her next final doubles match with Case. Stein said she was primed and ready to hit the court, while Case started to feel the nerves creeping in.  

“Going into our finals game, I was definitely nervous,” Case said. “Julia had just won her singles final match a few hours before we were up to play our doubles final. I knew if we won this, Julia would win singles and doubles for her senior year, so the pressure was on.” 

The showdown was BW against Oregon State University. 

With Stein’s previous win in singles boosting her confidence, the duo dove into the match with determination. The first game was a nail-biting battle, with both teams fiercely competing, ultimately resulting in OSU edging ahead and ending the first game 15-11. 

The second game kicked off just as intensely as the first, with neither side giving an inch of leeway. With the score tight at 10-7 in favor of OSU, BW found an opening and rallied back to level the playing field at 11-11. With grit and determination, BW powered through to claim a hard-fought 15-13 win for the second game, pushing a tiebreaker. 

The tiebreaker kicked off with BW quickly gaining an 8-4 lead, setting the stage for the showdown. BW maintained their momentum, finishing the tiebreaker with a 11-5 victory, sealing the match with a gold medal. 

“Our teammates were louder than anyone else there cheering us on,” Stein said. “Although I don’t pay much attention to cheering during the match after I look back, I appreciate the support from my teammates immensely.” 

The Women’s team ended up taking third place overall out of 10 teams. The men’s and women’s teams took fifth place overall out of 19 teams. Case and Bible joined Stein as All-American athletes after receiving fourth place in their divisions.  

BW racquetball is set to compete at the Ohio State University Mid East Racquetball Conference Regional Tournament on April 6. 

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