Teams to watch in the 2014-15 season

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Sophomore Jon Steele knocks the ball out of the Rhode Island catcher's glove to score the winning run in a 7-6 walkoff victory in May. After missing the playoffs by one game, the team hopes to build off a large returning class of sophomores to catapult themselves to the top of the Atlantic 10 standings.

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor
Junior Joe McDonald dribbles the ball during GW’s NCAA second-round loss to Memphis in March. The team is looking to repeat the breakout success of its 2013-14 campaign.

Men’s basketball
It’s too soon to pack your dancing shoes for the new academic year – wait until after winter break – but men’s basketball will be the team to follow right out of the gate as it tries to build off of a breakout 2013-14 season.

Men’s hoops finished with a 24-9 overall record last season, appearing at the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years. But the team could take a step back after the departure of stars Isaiah Armwood, Maurice Creek and three-point shooter Nemanja Mikic.

Five freshman recruits, including 6’8” Japanese prep-star Yuna Watanabe, will try to fill the holes left by the graduating class.

GW is already slated for a tournament in Hawaii and a non-conference game against Virginia before taking on a surging Atlantic 10 Conference that sent six teams dancing last March.

Women’s basketball
Head coach Jonathan Tsipis has his sights still set on an A-10 Championship to bring his program back to regional and national dominance. Two all-time Colonial greats – Danni Jackson and Megan Nipe – have departed after a 23-11 season with the team topping 100 points in three separate games.

Tsipis hopes to recreate that high-powered offense with a talented pair of post players and the league’s top-rated class of incoming recruits.

Junior Jonquel Jones, who sat out half of last season under NCAA rules after transferring from Clemson, and A-10 Rookie of the Year Caira Washington will team up in the frontcourt for a full year for the first time. Washington averaged 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while Jones led the team with 14.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

The Colonials will need to create good chemistry with a new point guard, UMBC transfer Lauren Chase, who sat out her whole junior season, half for eligibility and half for personal reasons.

Top recruits, including Washington Post All-Met forward Kelli Prange and star forward Brianna Cummings, could make an impact during early games against national powerhouses like Maryland.

The Colonials missed the postseason by a single game, but a late run by one of the nation’s youngest teams ended its season 20-30. Winning six of their last seven games showed maturity and set the team’s rising sophomores up for a possible breakout year.

Media Credit: Hatchet file photo by Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Sophomore Jon Steele knocks the ball out of the Rhode Island catcher’s glove to score the winning run in a 7-6 walk-off victory in May.

First-year players Bobby Campbell and Joey Bartosic were named to the All-Conference rookie team. Meanwhile, shortstop Kevin Mahala grew into his leadership role alongside double-play mate Eli Kashi.

With the departure of veteran pitchers as well as last season’s team MVP Owen Beightol, rising seniors like center fielder Ryan Xepoleas and red-shirt senior closer Colin Milon will have to step up with power at the plate and on the hill.

Men’s crew
After a banner year in which the Freshman Eight finished as the No. 7 rookie boat in the country, the Colonials seem primed for success in the future. At one point last season, all three GW boats combined to win 21-straight races. Younger rowers will need to step up and avoid any sophomore slumping to replace seasoned graduated seniors like Kasey Colander and Trofym Anderson.

Women’s squash
The Colonials finished last season with a program-best No. 9 ranking after going 14-5 during the year. GW won the coveted Kurtz Cup, its first title in the B-Division and the third title in program history.

Junior Anna Gabriela Porras finished the year as the No. 15 individual female player in collegiate squash and should have another dominant season at the No. 1 spot on the ladder. Porras’ statistics are mostly unparalleled in program history, but sophomore Breanne Flynn did match her 16-win season record in the No. 2 spot. While the team has good depth, the powerful one-two punch of Porras and Flynn should stand out in a season full of top competition like Yale, Brown and Princeton.

Under the direction of a new head coach, the men’s team whiffed early on. However, the season finished on a high note in the playoffs when senior Jack Persons and sophomore Michael Heda led the team to a third-place finish in the A-10 Championship.

With young talent and strong recruits, men’s golf is reaching for its first A-10 title since 2011. Also expect Persons, who will be the senior leader on the team, to make a mark on the conference.

Men’s tennis
After three A-10 titles in four years, men’s tennis is the established team to beat in the conference. But with twice as many newcomers as returning players, the outcome of the upcoming season will be hard to predict. Stay tuned to see if two-time A-10 Most Outstanding Performer and three-time All-Conference First Team honoree Francisco Dias can recreate a winning culture during his senior season after the team went 17-7 with him as the top singles player.

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