Blizzard sidelines GW athletes

As the East Coast was hit by “the Blizzard of ’03,” some Colonial athletic teams were forced to cancel games while others were stranded at airports mid route back to campus. While the men’s and women’s basketball games were played last weekend, baseball and tennis contests are canceled for the week, leaving these spring sports short on early season game experience.

The GW baseball team is used to having games canceled for rain, in fact what was to be their season opener at Norfolk last weekend was rescheduled for April. But unlike rain, snow provides long-term delays, and Sunday’s snowfall canceled the team’s game at James Madison yesterday and will possibly alter the team’s opening homestand this weekend.

Head Coach Tom Walter said his team was planning on using the game at James Madison and the homestand against Sacred Heart to get on track before a three-game series at Georgia Tech Feb. 28- March 1. But if his team cannot play this week, it might pose a problem, he said.

“If we can’t play this weekend then I’ll be worried going into Georgia Tech,” he said, noting that delaying the game this weekend would “knock his pitching staff off rhythm.”

Walter’s rotation had already been altered, with senior ace Greg Conden not getting his first start until last Sunday against the Terrapins. Conden was supposed to kick off the season against Norfolk Feb. 11.

There is a chance that this weekend’s homestand will be moved from the Colonials’ home field, Barcroft Park in Arlington, Va., to a location further south if Sacred Heart agrees. Walter said moving the game away from home would be a better option than pushing back the date.

“If we can find a place to play this weekend we’ll be in good shape,” he said.

The James Madison game will likely be rescheduled into a double header when the Dukes visit Barcroft Park Feb. 26.

The baseball team is not the only squad that may have its opening spoiled. The GW softball team, which has its inaugural game scheduled this Saturday at Mount Vernon, is doubtful about the status of its home opener.

“I saw the field on Tuesday and I couldn’t even get the gate open,” head coach Leslie King Moore said.

Because the softball field is made of the same artificial turf as the soccer field, clearing the snow is a tricky feat. Traditional snow blowers that use heat could permanently damage the rubber and sand based turf, leaving the team with few options besides waiting for the snow to melt.

“We’re contacting the company that made the turf to find out what the best equipment to use would be,” Moore said. “On a natural field we had mud problems, but with artificial turf, snow just sits there and you have to wait for it to melt.”

Moore said if the game were to be canceled it would not affect her team as much as they do not have the momentum of other games to feed off of.

Next to the softball field, Mount Vernon’s tennis courts were covered in snow, forcing the women’s tennis team to cancel home matches against American and University of Maryland- Baltimore County last weekend. Despite the canceled games, head coach Helen Andrews said her team has been having great practices at the Montclare Athletic Conference in Virginia and her underclassmen, particularly freshman Estee Bartell and sophomores Natasha Bode and Sevla Gonca, have been maturing rapidly.

The team, which has its next match at Old Dominion University Friday, will make up its contest with American Saturday in College Park, Md.

While baseball, softball and tennis will lose game experience because of the storm, the snow had a positive effect for the GW gymnastics team, which got stuck in New Jersey on the way home from the New Hampshire Invitational last Saturday.

With National airport closed under 16 inches of snow, the team decided to rent vans to drive back to the District. But the storm caught up with them.

“We made it as far as New Jersey and then we stayed in a Marriott hotel for two days,” head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham said. “The one good thing about it was that all of the freshmen got a chance to bond.”

Foster-Cunningham said the bonding experience was especially important considering the youth of her team this season, including five freshmen.

Junior co-captain Lindsay Parks was among the stranded gymnasts and she wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

“It was fun; we had a chance to get to know each other. It was really our first opportunity to do so,” she said.

The team, which eventually arrived back in Washington Tuesday morning, will travel to West Virginia for a 1 p.m. meet next Sunday.

-Jill Ersner contributed to this report

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