It was like a dream.
Dreams can be so fantastically unrealistic.
Dreams are short yet spectacular.
Many can forget dreams moments after they happen.
All of this is true for the SMS Racquetball Bears of the early ’90s.
It’s been 30-years since Michael Engelmeyer first walked onto this court inside Hammons Student Center.
“The coach, George, seen me play in here – court 2,” Engelmeyer said. “Legs we’re going to play one game to 15. If you win, you’re on the team.”
What Michael didn’t tell Coach George Baker was that his father coached Marty Hogan – a racquetball icon of the 1980s. Engelmeyer won his spot on the 1989-90 team – the first of many moves in a matter of months for Coach Baker.
“I remember asking George Baker once, ‘hey, how did you get these guys,” Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Legend Ned Reynolds asked, “he said, ‘I have my ways.”
Those ways reached all the way to Canada – landing one of that’s nation’s top athletes.
“George said in his way, ‘Simon Roy will be attending Southwest Missouri State,’ and we’re going, wait,” Engelmeyer said.
“He said he was going to make a record team,” Roy said, “and he was on task to make the best team in the nation which he did.”
With Simon Roy and other recruits the Bears had immediate success. The team sent some racquetball players to Intercollegiate Nationals in 1990 and while there, George continued his recruiting.
“I ended up playing against Simon Roy,” Derek Robinson said.
In the national quarterfinals, Derek Robinson lost to Roy in a tiebreaker.
The JuCo athlete made quite the impression with coach Baker – leading to his SMS offer.
“My game style,” Robinson said, “even with a loss, fighting until the end.”
The SMS roster was shaping up well, but George Baker wanted one more piece.
“Sitting in an apartment after practice with a friend,”Engelmeyer said, “he says Sweens is coming here,. And I’m like, ‘Tim is coming to college here?”
At the time, Tim Sweeney was the 3rd ranked amateur on the pro tour.
“This is a guy you read about,” Engelmeyer said, “and he’s playing on the same team you are.”
He had endorsements, confidence, and scholarship in Springfield.
“(George) he says, ‘all I ask is I’ll get the scholarship and I want you to win a national championship for Springfield and Southwest Missouri State.”
For the ’90-’91 season, with Tim on board, George Baker’s Bears were ready to take down perennial national champs out of Memphis State.
“That’s the mind of a winner coming in, and it followed down the line,” Engelmeyer said.
By the spring of 1991, Sweeney was leading a full roster of Bears to Phoenix for the National Intercollegiates.
“The ease of their movement, former Springfield News-Leader Sports Reporter, Francis Skalicky said, “all the stuff they did and the ease the did it – was truly amazing.”
SMS had six national champions sewn-up, but needed lucky number-seven for the team title. And it all came down to Sweeney.
“I learned so much from him,” Robinson said, “to get through the finish line.”
To cross the finish line, Sweeney had to beat Jimmy Floyd who had a national championship and a national runner-up already on his resume.
“I was a power player,” Sweeney said, “I’d like to say I have no weaknesses.”
“His a real flat ball, Robinson said, “he puts a lot of pressure on you with the flat ball he hits.”
With a packed crowd watching, Sweeney serves up six aces in the first game.
In the second – in serve wasn’t working but his power takes over helping SMS claim the championship.
“You’re setting the stage for the approach for world championships to follow,” Engelmeyer said.