Shiny silver bowls and wine buckets engraved with the names and dates of competitions are not what college students usually receive as trophies. That’s because most college students don’t compete in croquet tournaments – at least not until now.
Croquet has gained popularity at colleges across America, including the State University of New York at New Paltz. The New Paltz Extreme Croquet Society (NPECS) has grown to between 30 and 35 members in only three years and competes in tournaments each semester across the country.
It all started with a couple of friends smacking balls around a backyard during a barbecue. Now, NPECS is ranked second nationally among collegiate croquet teams. The group was also honored on campus recently, being named the “Small Club of the Year.”
“It was just something fun we used to do on the weekend,” said fourth-year journalism major Melissa Hernan, who has been playing croquet since spring 2007. “I don’t think anybody would’ve believed that we would get to this point.”
The NPECS competed at the United States Croquet Association’s National Collegiate Championship on April 24, 2010 at the Merion Cricket Club in Haverford, Penn. This was the third year the team attended this competition.
A croquet competition consists of two divisions, or types of game played: American six wicket and golf croquet.
“The first year, we had no idea how to play American six wicket,” said Justin Berbig, a fourth-year history major and co-founder/co-president of the organization.
That year, they only brought seven members of the team; this year, 28 players attended the tournament after practicing almost every day for four weeks. NPECS won second place among collegiate teams in both six wicket and golf croquet in 2010.
The team said it had aimed higher than second place. However, because of the way the games were lined up, two New Paltz teams had to play each other in the first round. This automatically eliminated one of them.
At the end of this semester the team celebrated with almost 40 people, including alumni, at a game in Hasbrouck Park on Saturday, followed by a barbecue at the croquet house. Hernan said the players have become a “close-knit family,” and Berbig admires the dedication of his team.
“My favorite thing about the croquet team is that they’ll come out and play, even if it’s raining or snowing,” said Berbig. “They just want to play. That’s a really unique thing.”