Motivation, commitment guide women’s squash

It has been a season of firsts for the GW women’s squash team.

The Colonials played in seven matches in three days at the Wesleyan Round Robin Dec. 1-2 and defeated No. 22 Connecticut College for the first time in GW women’s squash history.

What makes this year’s squad different than previous ones is each player’s desire to play better.

“It’s the best season we’ve had so far,” said junior Rachael Rayfield, one of the team’s three captains. “Girls are definitely more motivated and committed than I’ve ever seen. This year everybody is exercising every day and just really committed to it.”

Coach Maura Myers said it is her squad’s attitude rather than talent that is propelling the change.

“Not a ton has changed in terms of skill level or who’s actually on the team,” she said. “Everyone is just so much more into it this year, working hard on their own. Everyone comes to practice really excited to be here.”

Whatever the motivation for success, the team has begun to reap the benefits of the strong showing at the round robin.

Wins against Wesleyan University, Smith College and Connecticut College, coupled with a 9-0 win over Franklin and Marshall University in November, are helping to establish the five-year-old program in the minds of high school squash players. The strong performances have garnered interest among prospective athletes.

“I’ve gotten some emails this week (from prospective players) saying that they saw how we did,” Myers said. “Once they see us starting to beat or coming close to beating schools they’re looking at, then it (can come down to) which school they like better, not which squash program is more appealing. We’re sort of now up there with a lot of (other top programs).”

Despite being without senior Bettina Scott, another captain, who has been sidelined with inflammation of the tissue surrounding her hip, the squad remains positive about the second half of the season. The team is returning to Foggy Bottom a week early during winter break in order to train for and play a match against the University of Toronto, a school the Colonials have never faced.

“Everyone’s really excited for the second half of our season. Everyone will work hard so that we stay in the great shape that we’re in right now, because no one wants to lose,” senior Kara Popwich, the squad’s third captain, said.

The team’s ultimate goal this season is to move up a level at the Howe Cup, collegiate squash’s team championship. The Colonials are currently in the D-Division and have their sights set on making it into the C-Division. The win over Connecticut College likely boosts GW’s chances of that happening and Myers said her team’s relatively unknown nature could also benefit the squad.

“It would be very exciting for us because there are no emerging teams in that group; it’s pretty much long-established varsity programs, which is what we’re trying to become,” Myers said. “That’s what’s really nice about our situation — we can go into matches and have nothing to lose and that’s what we did this weekend.”

Rayfield has a simpler individual goal, a goal that embodies the new competitive spirit of the team.

She said, “There’s a lot of girls I want to beat out there.”

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