“We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.”
This quote was announced by coach Rob Durbin and posted on the whiteboard the night before finals week and the week before the USA Racquetball Intercollegiate Championship.
The quote echoed throughout the tournament and was recited by the team after being named National Champions, but believe it or not, this isn’t the first time they have received the honorary title.
Oregon State University Club Racquetball team won its 10th consecutive National Title by one match on April 1 at Los Caballeros Athletic Club in Fountain Valley, Calif.
“In my mind, I still want it to seem like the first because that’s how we keep it fresh and not so much an expectation” Durbin said. “For ten years it’s not been the same people, in some ways it makes it even more special. I love that these students have this opportunity. This sport has given back to them and back to me. Ten is a number, but every year is a different number to those players on the team.”
Of the total 11 national titles the team has won, only two students have come from outside the borders of Oregon. Oregon is well-known for the competitive juniors program that develops athletes at a young age and prepares them for high school and collegiate level play. Five of the 13 players on the Beavers roster come from powerhouse Sprague High School in Salem.
Civil engineering major, junior Alexander DeHart, found racquetball at Sprague while looking for cross-training to prepare him for baseball. DeHart explains that the team dynamic holds the team together.
“No one played a game that another OSU players wasn’t watching. The team dynamic is really what kept us going.” DeHart said. “You can look back in the middle of a rally and see your teammates and it’s just reassuring that you are never alone.”
Senior Erica Lipski, public health major, planned on accepting a softball scholarship to Tennessee until she blew out her knee her junior year of high school. She continued to play racquetball and found a hidden passion. She holds six national titles and took second in singles and third in doubles this year. Lipski reveals her emotions about her last year of eligibility.
“Going into that tournament we knew that this could have been the year that we might not have made it, which is fine because we were still going to play our hardest. We weren’t expected to win, and we only won by one match and we were all in tears.”
OSU Racquetball often gets overlooked in terms of national titles because it is a club sport and does not offer athletic scholarships. The team is self-financed and uses local fundraisers as another way to bond.
“The commission that we get through the racquetball tournaments at Timberhill goes towards our trip to nationals,” Lipski said.
The team practices at OSU as well as Timberhill Athletic Club in Corvallis where they host club tournaments in preparation for Nationals. The team does not belong to a conference so when Nationals come around, tournaments are essential to get them prepared, according to Durbin, three-time National Coach of the Year.
Men and women compete in six singles and three doubles divisions. There are national winners for singles and doubles as well as the combined scores put together determine the overall team score.
Durbin continues to be astonished with the level of talent and commitment the young athletes leave on the court, especially without the fan base that they deserve.
“Take each year for the blessing it is, I don’t need to push an agenda because we are comfortable with what we have; we are winning titles,” Rob Durban said. “It keeps the athletes humbled, they aren’t privileged, they keep striving for accomplishments.”
With only one senior leaving this year, the racquetball powerhouse could be in line for an 11th-straight title.