By Drew Zuhosky
Singles. One-ups. Ironman. What do all these words have in common? They all pertain to the game of racquetball. Believe it or not, the racquetball team has been competing as a club sport at Youngstown State University for years now.
Andy Innocenzi and Nick Conti captain the women and men’s clubs, respectively. Starting the racquetball club was Conti’s idea upon his transfer to YSU from Butler County Community College.
“I noticed that the university already set up the racquetball courts,” Conti said. “This is the perfect place to have a team and when I looked into it, I noticed there was no team or club, so I started the process of finding out how and if I could start a team. I just thought ‘What a great place to have a team or club.’”
This is where Innocenzi, an experienced racquetball player, entered the picture.
“I knew just about everybody on campus that played the game,” Innocenzi said. “When Nick came to me with the idea of starting a team, I just started getting everybody I knew who played and set up practice times and made it official.”
Conti still had to form a roster and clear proper channels with YSU before getting final approval.
“Everybody gave me the name that Andy was the unofficial ambassador of racquetball on campus,” he said.
After Conti and Innocenzi met, the racquetball club was born.
Innocenzi described racquetball as being like pingpong, tennis or any net game.
“The goal of the game is to hit the ball off of the front wall and make it bounce two times before your opponent gets it,” he said. “If you hit it off the front wall, it’s equivalent to getting it over the net in volleyball or tennis. From there, it’s just back and forth.”
As of right now, Conti estimates that there are 20 players officially on the team’s roster. There are additional players that practice with the team but are not part of the active roster.
“We have 20 who signed up and other people who aren’t signed up who come and play regularly with us,” he said. “We probably have right around 30 people in the group, give or take a few. We have optional practices that aren’t mandatory, so we get about 10 to 15 people at every practice.”
When Innocenzi came to YSU, he’d never even heard of racquetball.
“I saw the courts here and someone showed me how to play, and I fell in love with it,” he said. “I got beat 15-0 my first game and I became addicted to it. You want to get better and better, be like that person that beat you, and from there you start practicing every single day. Nick and I are the top two players on this team.”
The team, which practices Monday through Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m., plays competitively in the Mid-American Racquetball Conference (MARC) against schools like Akron University, University of Dayton, Ohio State University, Purdue University and University of Cincinnati. In the first meet in Akron, both the men’s and women’s teams placed second in the conference out of eight schools. The team’s next meet is this weekend against Ohio State.