LEWISTON — The world’s best squash players are returning to our backyard.

Bates again will host the Bobcat Classic on Friday, Sept. 27 and Saturday, Sept. 28 at its squash center at 56 Alfred Plourde Parkway.

In addition to the professional event sanctioned by the Pro Squash Tour, there will be an amateur tournament over the weekend.

Reigning world champion and defending event winner David Palmer leads the field. Other top players including Thierry Lincou, an 11-time French national champion, college national champion Amr Khaled Khalifa of Egypt and St. Lawrence University, and world championship semifinalist Wade Johnson of Australia.

Maine’s collegiate squash programs will be well represented. Ahmed Abdel Khalek of Bates and C.J. Smith of Colby are the No. 1 players on their respective teams.

Khalek is currently ranked fourth in the nation after reaching the semifinals of the national tournament as a first-year player at Bates. The two-time U.S. Junior Open champion was 23-2 in his rookie campaign.

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“The level of play in American college squash is rising so fast, it is impossible to overstate it,” Pro Squash Tour commissioner Joe McManus said in a news release. “I’ve seen a lot of squash, but the contrast of two of the best young players on the planet (Khalifa and Khalek) fighting tooth and nail to knock off two legends of the game (Palmer and Lincou) is exciting for me.”

Bates 2012-13 team captain Walter Cabot also is entered.

Cross country splits difference

Bates women’s cross country, ranked No. 20 in NCAA Division III, powered past Colby in its initial race of the season at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester.

The event was divided into a junior/senior race and a freshman/sophomore segment. Bates nailed down eight of the top nine spots in the 2.8-mile run for the more experienced racers, paced by overall winner Elena Jay (17:05), Gabby Naranja of Fort Kent and Mira-Carey Hatch.

Farmington’s Addie Cullenberg was the Bobcats’ second-fastest runner in the other wave. She was fourth overall in a time of 18:14. Jessica Wilson of Cumberland followed her in fifth.

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Ranked No. 6 in the nation, the Bates men were felled by the format in an upset loss to their in-state rival.

Bates dominated the junior/senior run, topped by Mike Martin at 19:04 over six kilometers. Tully Hannan (second), Noah Graboys (fourth), John Stansel (fifth) and Christian Sampson (eighth) followed. Colby captured the first four places in the second wave, however, with freshman Jack Dailey leading the Bobcats in fifth.

Making up for lost time

After missing all but one game of her junior campaign due to injury, Bates women’s soccer player Kara Stefaniak appears determined to finish up in style.

Stefaniak scored a goal in each of the Bobcats’ two early-season wins, 1-0 over Southern Maine and 2-1 in NESCAC league play over Tufts.

Senior classmate Julia Rafferty added a goal against Tufts for the Bobcats, helping to secure the program’s first 2-0 start since 2006. Bates is currently 2-2.

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Peabo Knoth of Portland logged his first college goal and assist in the same game for Bates men’s soccer, staking the Bobcats to a 2-0 triumph over Maine Maritime. Knoth set up Jonathan Lin’s game-winning tally before supplying his own 15 minutes later.

Sophomore goaltender Zach Shabman has logged two shutouts through the first three games for Bates (1-1-1). Shabman made nine saves to preserve a 0-0 tie with Hamilton in a game that saw the Continentals out-shoot the Bobcats, 24-5.

Explosive effort

Caroline Falcone scored a staggering five goals for Bates in a season-opening 8-2 field hockey win over Thomas.

What’s somewhat surprising is that it wasn’t even a school record. That distinction is still owned by Priscilla Wilde, who scored six in a 1976 contest against the University of Maine at Farmington. Wilde remains the all-time leading scorer in NCAA Division III.

Falcone’s five were the most goals scored by a Bates player in well over a decade. however. Lexie Carter of Saco chipped in two goals against Thomas. Danielle Pierce of Parsonsfield produced a pair of assists.

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Senior goaltender Becca Otley played a starring role for the Bobcats in a pair of recent defeats. Otley made 12 saves in a 1-0 verdict against Hamilton and stopped 14 shots in a 2-1 overtime decision at Husson.

League’s best

Bates volleyball sophomore Laryssa Schlepel was named NESCAC player of the week for the period ending Sept. 8

Schlepel, a defensive stalwart for the Bobcats, chalked up a career-high 35 digs in a victory over Saint Joseph’s.

She is the first Bates player to win the honor since multi-sport standout Olivia Zurek in 2004.

The Bobcats are 6-3 on the season, including wins over Husson (twice), Lyndon State, Endicott and Simmons.

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