Since a crushing defeat at nationals last year, the men’s squash team hasn’t wavered from its desire to be champions.
And after defeating No. 23 Colby College 5-4 at the College Squash Association Team Nationals Sunday, for the first time in program history, head coach Wendy Lawrence and her squad (15-9) are national champions.
“I was getting text messages and calls from many of our alumni after we beat Colby,” Lawrence said. “They are really excited to see GW on the map like this. It is really a bright star for GW and the athletic department.”
The No. 17 Colonials traveled to Princeton, N.J. needing to win three matches in three days to claim the Summers Cup, the highest honor in the tournament’s C division. GW easily defeated No. 24 Stanford 8-1 with dominant play from juniors Islam El-Fiky and Omar Sobhy.
El-Fiky and Sobhy, who are No. 1 and No. 2 on the team ladder, respectively, set the tone for GW, and the team soon advanced to face Bowdoin in the semifinals.
It was that round that gave the Colonials a chance to avenge their defeat in the 2011 tournament at the hands of Bowdoin. In a tight contest, GW narrowly defeated Bowdoin 5-4, earning hard-fought four-set victories from senior Jose Calderon and junior Player Haynes.
“We had beaten them twice during the season this year. We played them in December and won 8-1 and we played them in January and we won 5-4. We weren’t at all overconfident, but we at least had a sense of how they played and what their strengths and weaknesses were,” Lawrence said. “And when you lose in the finals like we did to Bowdoin last year, it is tough to deal with. Revenge was always in the back of our minds.”
With last year’s loss solidly repaid, GW turned its attention to a surprising finals opponent. Colby successfully upset two teams to reach the last round of the tournament, defeating both No. 18 Amherst College and No. 22 Hamilton College, but the Colonials were prepared to stare down the surprise challenger’s momentum.
“We were not expecting to play Colby,” Lawrence said. “It came down to us being prepared and taking care of business.”
And GW did just that, maintaining a high level of play until the Summers Cup was solidly in its hands. Though El-Fiky and Sobhy both have more squash to play this year – representing GW at the Individual National Championships in March – for the rest of the team, it’s a thrilling cap to the season.
The championship helps boost the program’s future, too, Lawrence pointed out. After capturing the Summers Cup, the head coach can more aggressively pursue the best high school squash players in the U.S. and around the world, working to continue to build a strong program.
“For the seniors to go out winning is great, and we will miss them,” Lawrence said. “We do have great juniors and sophomores who are fantastic players as well. Obviously, winning the Summers Cup makes my life easier as a recruiter and we can really attract some great players to GW.”
This article was updated on Feb. 23, 2012 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly spelled Omar Sobhy’s name as Sabhy. The article has been updated to reflect the correct spelling.The Hatchet also incorrectly omitted that the Colonials won the C division of the tournament. The article has been updated to reflect the proper division.