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To many people, the word croquet triggers the image of the comical game played by the Queen of Hearts and Alice in the Disney film Alice in Wonderland.
But not for junior Ned Bannon and sophomore John Fogarty. This duo captured the National Collegiate Croquet Championship at Smith College on April 24-25.
"It's a sport that doesn't receive too much recognition," Fogarty said, "but it's really a lot of fun to go out on a nice day and play croquet."
In fact, croquet's small-time appeal relegates it to club-level status at Harvard, so that the team gets very little financial support.
Because of this lack of funding, the Boston Croquet Club became an integral part of the team's success, since it allowed Bannon and Fogarty to borrow the mallets they used to bring home the trophy.
"We really want to thank the Boston Croquet Club for their support," Bannon said.
Senior Ian Henderson, junior Lawrence Nottebohm and sophomore Ryan Berglund were also part of the team but were unable to make the championships because of unavoidable conflicts.
That left just Fogarty and Bannon. Luckily, each team only needs two players in order to compete.
There are only nine colleges in the United States with certified croquet programs-Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Navy, UMass, Amherst, Mt. Holyoke, Wellsley, and Smith-and at the championships, each team must play every team it did not face during the regular season.
That meant the Crimson had to play five matches, as it had lost to Yale and defeated Columbia earlier in the season.
Fogarty and Bannon, however, almost missed out on the fun before they got out on the croquet lawn.
You see, their first match against UMass was scheduled to begin at 6:30 in the morning, but that nemesis of college students, alarm clock failure, forced them to forfeit the match.
"It was a pretty rough start," Bannon said.
At 1-2 after the forfeit, Bannon and Fogarty couldn't afford to lose another game, and they didn't.
Wellsley was to first team to fall to the precision mallet play of the Crimson's dynamic duo. The Kirkland junior and Cabot sophomore then outwicketed Navy, Mt. Holyoke and Smith soon after.
This success set Harvard up with a rematch against Yale for the national championship, and Bannon and Fogarty surprised a lot of people, even themselves, by winning 17-12.
While Yale and almost every other team had a coach in its corner, Bannon and Fogarty were there by themselves, left alone by the recent resignation of Head Coach Bert Myer.
Then again, there was a positive side to having no guidance.
"A lot of other teams were too serious and high-powered," Fogarty said. "Ned and I were there by ourselves and were actually pretty relaxed."
This championship follows the success of last fall's Crimson croquet team, which also defeated the Bull dogs in the title game in Southampton, New York.
The national croquet committee changed the entire format of the croquet season after last fall by making it a spring sport for the first time this year.
The committee also replaced the two-team winner-take-all championship weekend with a round-robin format.
While Fogarty learned the game just this year, Bannon was a part of both championship teams.
"I'm pretty psyched since this is the second time we've ever beaten Yale," Bannon said.
"The more you play, the more you enjoy it."
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