When senior Brad Birenbaum enrolled at GW to play squash, he entered a program that was in just its third year at the varsity level and had never held a home match. Three years later, the Pennsylvania native is the captain of the nation’s 22nd-ranked team, which beat Drexel and the University of North Carolina 9-0 each on Saturday at the Health and Wellness Center in its final home matches of the season.
The Colonials will go to Princeton University in early February for the national tournament, where the country’s 52 elite teams will compete. They are expected to compete in the third “tier” eight-team tournament with the teams ranked between 17th and 24th.
Birenbaum said much of the team’s recent success can be credited to second-year coach Wendy Lawrence, the team’s third coach in four years.
“She’s a really good coach,” Birenbaum said. “She put together the best schedule that we’ve had and, on the court, because she’s been in squash a lot she gives us a lot of attention in between matches to help us adapt to each individual opponent.”
Lawrence also helped secure the nation’s first and only scholarship given exclusively for squash, which should help recruit some of the nation’s best high school players to Foggy Bottom. The scholarship, and the program’s ability to host two teams on the same day at HellWell (which Birenbaum said is “sufficient” as a facility), both help get the word out that squash at GW is on the rise.
“It’s a much more established program,” Birenbaum said about the current state of the team compared to his freshman year. “Moving forward, we’re going to be a very strong program from here on out – we have some great recruits coming in.”
As the team’s longest-tenured player, Birenbaum is the only current member to have played with the original team, who helped promote the sport from club status to the varsity level. Given the tumultuous first few years of the program, Birenbaum said winning his Senior Day matches in front of the program’s largest-ever crowd – approximately 75 people – meant even more to him.
He said, “The team is stronger than it’s ever been, it’s younger than it’s ever been and I don’t think coach Lawrence is going anywhere anytime soon.”
Andrew Alberg contributed to this report.