It is not unusual for Day Squash Center to be full of activity throughout the school year. On any given day, the sounds of squash being played echo throughout the complex as students hone their skills or play recreationally with friends.
On Thursday, October 4, a pair of friends took to the George P. Bissell ’36 Stadium Court for a friendly exhibition. Dozens of Hill students jammed the seating areas surrounding the court to watch the match.
Why was there so much interest in this particular match? The participants were professional players Cameron Pilley, who currently is the 23rd ranked men’s squash player in the world, and Ryan Cuskelly, who is ranked 16th in the world. Both players were in Philadelphia for the US Open Squash Tournament and agreed to the exhibition on Hill’s campus.
The exhibition was made possible by Chanel Erasmus, The Hill’s Squash Director, who has known Pilley for several years.
“I played on the same squash team as Cam and his wife back in South Africa,” Erasmus explained. “So, when I heard he’d be in Philadelphia for the US Open, I reached out and asked him if he would be willing to come to Hill to play an exhibition match against whomever he wanted. He suggested Ryan, his Australian teammate, at which point it was just a matter of arranging the exhibition.”
Coincidentally, Pilley’s wife, Line Hanson, played in a professional squash exhibition The Hill hosted in 2014.
Erasmus began the event by introducing Pilley and Cuskelly to the captivated audience. The duo played an exhibition match before fielding several questions from students. Then, Hill students Flavio Hinostroza ’19 and Tram Anh Tran ’20 received the unexpected surprise of being asked to play against Pilley and Cuskelly. It was an unforgettable experience for Hinostroza and Tran, both of whom are members of The Hill’s squash teams.
“Being able to get on court with two of the best players on the world tour is an incredible experience because we were able to compare our skills to theirs and see where we have to improve and how to do it,” Hinostroza noted. “It was also really impressive to see the pace of their game, and how accurate their shots are.”
“My experience playing with a professional squash player was surreal,” Tran said. “It was completely unexpected, too, because Coach Erasmus never told us beforehand that we were going to have the opportunity to play them. I was very nervous because a part of me wanted to impress him, but also I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I was playing with a pro squash player. Otherwise, my experience was amazing. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but it also motivated me to be a better squash player with the hopes that one day, I might be able to play against him one more time.”
Pilley and Cuskelly lingered following the exhibition to meet students and sign autographs.
Erasmus considers the event a successful step in her goal of growing the game, both on campus and in the greater Pottstown area.
“It’s incredible to have players of such caliber coming to The Hill School and to Pottstown,” Erasmus said. “One way of achieving our goal of exposing the sport to more people in the community is to bring in players and coaches from around the world who have played at the highest level. Cameron and Ryan are not only great athletes, but they are great role models and ambassadors of the game. I’ve been in the world of squash for a long time, having played on the same teams and competed against these professional players when I was a junior player, and now working at events like the U.S. Open and the Tournament of Champions, I have gotten to know many of them very well. That’s the beauty of the game, it’s such an intimate sport, that when you play, coach, or are a fan, you will always have a connection with the players. It’s a big family and I was thrilled to have them on campus.”
The exhibition concluded a week in which there also was a women’s squash night on campus. For anyone who was able to attend the exhibition, it is an event that they will likely remember for a long time.