Men’s Squash: Unwelcome in their own home

The GW men’s squash team has improved dramatically since it became a varsity program last season, rising in the College Squash Rankings to No. 21. But players say they still feel slighted.

Despite the 2001 opening of the Health and Wellness Center, which includes several squash courts, the team is unable to compete on campus due to city zoning regulations that prohibit non-GW students from entering the HWC.

“(University officials) claim they’re working on it, but it’s really out of our hands,” senior co-captain Jacob Greenbaum said. “It’s unfortunate that the school didn’t think about us when they built this facility.”

The team is able to practice five days a week at the HWC but plays its home matches at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., along with the women’s team, which faces the same problem and has not fared as well as the men in competition.

“(Navy has) two incredible squash centers and plenty of room for spectators,” senior co-captain Frank Hentic said. “So it helps make up for our inability to host matches at home.”

While squash players admit that the HWC has accommodated the team’s space and time demands for practice, they said gym patrons regularly misuse the courts. They added that people play various other sports in the squash courts without proper squash footwear, which makes the floor slippery and dangerous.

Tony Vecchione, GW Assistant Athletic Director for facilities, said the city is close to changing the zoning laws. But for now, he said the University cannot do anything to help the situation.

“It’s understandable that (the squash team) is upset,” he said. “So hopefully we can work it out in the future. But there’s nothing really new to report at this time.”

Regardless of the HWC situation, squash head coach Simon Harrington said he remains hopeful about recruiting. However, he acknowledged the challenge that newer programs face when competing for players with Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Princeton, whose squash facilities are first rate and whose programs have existed for nearly a century.

“GW squash is a 25-year club, and becoming a varsity team brought up the standard of the program,” Harrington said. “Hopefully, more good players will be attracted to GW as the program continues to improve.”

Last year, four highly touted freshmen joined the team, which Hentic called “an act of a higher power.”

The four players were not recruited but tried out and secured the team’s top four spots. They contributed heavily to the team’s success, helping it rise ten places in the national rankings from No. 35 to No. 25. The team also won the fourth division title (each division has eight teams) and was named the most improved team in the nation by the College Squash Association.

Last weekend, the Colonials placed fifth in the third division at the CSA Team Championships in New Haven, Conn., knocking off the University of Rochester 6-3 on Sunday.

“The third division is a realistic place for the team,” Harrington said. “And (it) puts us in a good competitive position against other teams with very solid programs.”

The team will now travel to Canton, N.Y. next weekend to finish its season at the 2004 individual championships. And while the playing situation is not ideal, Greenbaum said the Colonials will not let it distract their focus.

“We’ll try our best to represent GW,” he said. “We can only hope that, in the future, GW will try its best to represent us.” n

-Alan Siegel contributed to this report.

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