“There will never be another team like that,” Michael Engelmeyer said.
“Talk about the level of what they recruited to get a dynasty racquetball team, and we dominated,” Tim Sweeney added.
“The best assembled team in the nation,” Simon Roy said, “we all won national titles at one point, that was a great ride.”
But our story doesn’t have the heroes riding off into the sunset ending.
Following a fourth straight national title for both Tim Sweeney and the Bears, the racquetball world was gushing about SMS. But in Springfield for whatever reason – the optics from the audit, Doctor Marshall Gordon out as president, or George Baker no longer there to promote his Dream Team – the Ozarks had no clue of the win.
“Four straight titles, unheard of,” Jen (Yokota) Sherman said.
“Four championships,” Sweeney said, “the only player to do so I’m proud to say.”
“We brought the status,” R0y said. “We were the best team out of 72 different colleges, and we did it four years in a row, that’s domination.”
The SMS racquetball club would not win another national championship after 1994. The road stops with the Dream Team’s graduation.
“You have no scholarships coming back into the program,” Engelmeyer said, “and unfortunately, you have to have money to create something, that’s the way it is.”
After graduation these collegiate all-stars found a different world of racquetball waiting.
“It’s not a great story that I went on to become the number one player the following year,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney represented the United States in the 1995 Pan Am Games, but a pro career never developed.
“Some contracts were not out there that were there for me previously,” Sweeney said. “They blamed it on the level of the sport. I was still top ranked, maybe top five in the pro/am level and I just left.”
Roy was played in those Pan Am Games for Canada. He would win 10 national titles and two world titles for his home country.
“The summer of ’98 I didn’t make the national team after 11 consecutive years. I had a great run in racquetball from 9 years old to 29 years old.”
Allan Engel also walked away from the spot after graduation.
“I live on a boat now,” Engel said, “doing fish tours. I fish everyday for a living.”
“I became marketable real quick so,” Derek Robinson said, “people wanted to endorse me.”
Robinson would win two amateur national championships, an Olympic Festival gold medal in 1994 to go along with other numerous titles. He was a finalist for the US Open and was ranked as high as 5th in the world spending 10-years on tour.
“I owe George and Southwest Missouri State, now Missouri State, all that to it,” Robinson said.
His former Bears teammate, John Ellis would room with Robinson on tour. Now, he’s teaching youth racquetball programs.
“That’s where it’s at for all sports,” Ellis said, “you have to have the younger generation to have your sport grow.”
Jen Yokota did the same thing. She took over as the Missouri Racquetball Association’s president – taking over for her former coach, George Baker.
“We had a strong high school programs,” Yokota said, “and I wanted those kids to have a national association.”
The trophies from three decades ago sit in a quiet corner of Hammons Student Center. Everyday people walk by it without a glance – like its wallpaper from the 90s.
Michael Englemeyer also left the sport behind and now owns a national commercial advertising company. While in school, he carried a video camera around and caught clips of this special team, clips that three decades later, are being used to tell this story.
“I would catch footage in between taking a breather, and sometimes I would take a longer breather,” Engelmeyer said.
Southwest Missouri State eventually had its name change to Missouri State – years after Dr. Gordon Marshall left. No criminal charges ever came down following the audit and the FBIs case faded away.
“Ultimately both George and Dr. Gordon got their wish to see SMS become Missouri State,” Engelmeyer said. I know somewhere they’re smiling – I wish they could see this.”
A university president comes up with an idea to grant scholarships to a coach of a racquetball club so he recruit the best players in north america.
If the school can win national titles, that puts it in a national spotlight, and ultimately that president can change the school’s name.
This is something great.
This is something that happened in Springfield.
This is something we will never see again.