Coach gives squash renewed hope

On the eve of Tuesday’s presidential election, the men’s squash team has change it can believe in.

The GW men’s squash team, led by head coach Wendy Lawrence, has learned that if it didn’t work the first few times, it’s time to try something new.

After an impressive season, the Colonials made it to the championship match of the Conroy Division at the Men’s College Nationals, where they fell to Colby College, the No. 1 seed.

For this season, they’ve made some adjustments.

This year, with a goal of breaking the top 20, Lawrence has planned a tough schedule with more matches and tougher opponents than they faced in the 2007-08 season. They’ve already defeated cross-town rival Georgetown in a sound 9-0 shutout.

“We have 27 matches this year, which is more than we’ve had in the past, and we do a lot of traveling to New England, because the majority of schools that we’re shooting for are all in New England,” Lawrence said. “We’re shooting at schools that are ranked considerably ahead of us. We’re hoping we’ll knock a few of them off, which is all we really need to do to move up.”

Another beneficial change to the team is the introduction of a strength and conditioning coach, Alex Parr. The extra workouts will help ready the team for the intense season, which includes up to three matches in one day.

“We think it’s doing wonders for our game,” senior Brad Birenbaum said.

The team looks different, too. Though only three players graduated last season, eight of the 13 players on last year’s roster did not return. Half of the team this season is composed of freshmen, and only three players are upperclassmen.

Freshman Jose Calderone, a Columbian player who spent last year attending high school in North Carolina, is the current No. 1 player on the team.

“The overall depth this year is the strongest it’s ever been,” Birenbaum said. “We have a legitimate No. 1 this year, and we’ve been missing that.”

Junior Matt Grossman is playing second, and Brett Feldman, a nationally ranked player from New Jersey, rounds out the top three.

“We’re hoping to get in the top 20 this year and part of that is due to having had a fairly strong recruiting year,” Lawrence said. “We have six new freshmen, and while some were walk-ons, the No. 1 and 3 spot were recruits.”

Lawrence herself embodies the team’s ability to revamp when necessary.

The third coach to take on the men’s squad in a period of two years, Lawrence has found success where others, including Jude Odeh, a former Nigerian national squash champion, failed.

“I’ve gone through three different coaches in the four years I’ve been here,” Birenbaum said. “Last year we had Jude, which was just a bad situation all around. We’re happy Wendy is here.”

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