The all-stars of squash took to the center stage this weekend as the University of Pennsylvania played host to the College Squash Association Individuals tournament. The pool consisted of more than 60 of the nation’s top players competing for the No. 1 title. Out of those elite few, UR’s own freshman Jim Bristow won a seat at the top of the brackets.

Throughout the season, Bristow has encountered very little opposition, save for a five game showdown against a junior from Bates College, who closed out the season ranked No. 13. Bristow came out ahead in that one, too. Other than that, he’s played the role of executioner amongst a feeble crowd.

The CSA individuals gave Bristow a challenge he’s long awaited.

“It’s great to finally get some close matches and even have people beat me easily, although that isn’t quite so fun,” Bristow said. “I know some of the other top guys from Europe and from earlier in the season, so it’s good to finally play them. We are all pretty close in standard. I mean, almost any of the top guys could have won the tournament this weekend.”

So, while the regular season was fairly easy for the top player, the CSAs represented what Bristow characterized as “a different kettle of fish.”

It wasn’t so much so in the first round for Bristow, who cleaned, gutted and deboned No. 28 Tucker George from the Naval Academy, 9-2, 9-2, 9-3, but rather in the second round.

In the second round, Bristow squared off against the No. 8 seat, Kimlee Wong from Princeton University.

It was a short match for Bristow, who got bounced from the game early, 9-1, 9-0, 9-1.

Finding an edge against Wong proved difficult for Bristow, who believed that Wong’s versatility and finesse gave him the upper hand.

“Wong was physically very strong and his movement was incredible,” Bristow said. “Every time I thought I had hit a winner, he would put the ball back on the front wall. He was just far more patient and disciplined than I was. He beat me by winning the big rallies and staying focused.”

Accompanying Bristow to the CSAs was head coach Martin Heath who was instrumental in Bristow’s limited success. “He could see how the courts played and helped me adjust. The courts were really warm and reactive so I had to be precise with my shots. This helped throughout the tournament.”

Having a tremendous, undefeated year, Bristow concluded the 2006-2007 season at No. 11 in the nation. He fell one seat short of making it to the first team All-American. Furthermore, he is one of only three freshmen to be amongst the top 20, which means a No. 1 ranking isn’t far off from reality.

While the top is clearly within reach, it is still going to be an arduous slope to scale.

“All of these guys know what they’re doing,” Bristow said. “I need to improve my movement around the court, hip and lower back flexibility and then just mentally be willing to play ugly squash. My goal is to win the tournament next year and in order to beat these guys I’m going to have to train hard and get mentally stronger.”

Serafini is a member of the class of 2008.

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