Squash teams are known for their camaraderie.
The Penn women have invented their own vocabulary, and their captain, senior Annie Madeira, claims they “tell each other everything, as lame as that sounds.”
But for the Penn men’s team (2-3), which takes on Navy (14-2) tomorrow evening at Ringe Courts, the bonds run all the way to the cradle. Seniors Will Browne and James Clark say that they have never been apart.
“We went to high school together, and before that we went to the same nursery school,” Clark said.
Browne and Clark also have older brothers who are the same age.
“Our parents were hanging out before we were born,” Clark added. “My mom talks about going to youth hockey games when they were pregnant with us.”
While the pair says that they are close off the court, it’s clear that athletics have played an integral role in their friendship.
According to records from the U.S. Squash Racquets Association, Browne and Clark first played each other — officially, at least — in 2002. Though Clark left the court with the win, nine months later, Browne got his.
In 2003, Browne and Clark entered high school together at the Brunswick School, an independent all-boys institution in Greenwich, Conn. There, they lettered in lacrosse and squash — two programs that boast consistent regional success. Brunswick took the New England Squash title all three years that Browne and Clark were on the team.
At Brunswick, squash is “popular, and kids form friendships around the sport,” Clark explained. “We were all really close friends so our athletic and social lives were intermixed.”
In Browne and Clark’s graduating class alone, the school sent five others to college squash programs. Two of those players, Wesley Wynne and Travis Judson, went on to play for Trinity, whose men’s team has not surrendered any of its last 224 matches. Judson captains the Bantams.
“There was a lot of support for the sport at Brunswick,” Browne said. “Our matches had just as many people as they do here a lot of the time.”
The duo also spoke highly of their high school coach, Jim Stephens, who they described as a “legend,” and the “grandfather type — laid back and encouraging.”
While Browne captained the Brunswick boys his senior year, Clark is taking his turn at the helm as he and Browne approach the middle of their final collegiate season. They are joined by John Dudzik, a freshman out of Brunswick, as well.
Though Dudzik’s position on the Varsity B team as a high school freshman limited his access to Browne and Clark, the seniors still made an impact.
“I looked up to them when I was a little freshman,” Dudzik said.
According to Dudzik, Clark and Browne were part of a close group of friends that he wished to emulate.
“It kind of came full circle for me,” he said.
This year, Dudzik has the opportunity to once again experience his elders’ leadership. Playing in the eighth spot, with Browne at seven and Clark at three, the freshman will enter his sixth collegiate match tomorrow, as Penn looks to improve to .500 against the Midshipmen.
“They’re always in really good shape, obviously,” Browne said.
Though the Quakers may not be as buff as their Navy opponents, the Brunswick boys have high hopes for the rest of their season.
“There are plenty of matches left, and we can turn it around,” Clark said. “We’re optimistic.”