Each summer, roughly a quarter of the student-athletes at GW graduate and leave campus, while a new batch of young talent prepares to refill the rosters.
This year is no different. One hundred and twelve students donned the student athlete sashes around their necks May 21 – most of them will never compete in a Colonials uniform again.
This inevitable transition is central to the essence of collegiate sports, and repeated consistency with these changes differentiates the most competitive schools and programs from the rest.
Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero said GW is one of those competitive schools because of the progress he has seen during his six-year tenure.
“I’m confident in the direction of all of our programs. If at any point in time we lose confidence that we can win – and win the right way – we haven’t hesitated to make a change,” Nero said in an email. “I don’t think there is one that can say that we haven’t put them in a position to contend for championships.”
Several teams will be greatly affected by the transition this summer, including both basketball programs. With one of the program’s best players in recent seasons – Tyler Cavanaugh – now out of eligibility, the men’s side returns with only six players from last year’s roster and only one who started more than half of the team’s games.
Under the youngest head coach at the helm of a major conference program, Maurice Joseph, the Colonials will have to rely on the increased scoring of senior guard Yuta Watanabe and playing time from multiple newcomers.
The change is difficult, but not entirely new to men’s basketball. The program won eight fewer games but still remained a 20-win team after losing more than 60 percent of their scoring and a core of stars between 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
Women’s basketball will also go through a transition. They will be without 2017 graduates Caira Washington, Hannah Schaible and Shannon Cranshaw in the starting lineup for the first time in four years.
The team will have to make big changes and find players that are willing to lead and put in the work, Jennifer Rizzotti, women’s basketball head coach, said.
“We lost big contributors to the team from last year with Shannan, Hannah, Caira and Lexi [Martins] all graduating,” Rizzotti said. “I think for us the offseason is about creating our new identity, finding guys to step up into leadership positions and seeing who takes advantage to really step up. It is a little nerve-racking but a little exciting.”
Now in her second season, Rizzotti said she is expecting positive developments within the program that go beyond just personnel.
“I think your culture changes every year no matter who graduates,” Rizzotti said. “This year will certainly be quite different for us in terms of the coaching staff being more settled, understanding GW, understanding the team better, understanding personalities.”
One of the longest tenured coaches at GW, men’s soccer head coach Craig Jones – who has been with the team for 15 years and at the helm for five – takes pride in the competitive culture he has established. Jones said that he hopes the Colonials lofty expectations and will to win can transcend roster changes.
“My aim, when I first took over the program five years ago, was to change the culture,” Jones said. “I think we set the tone and the bar fairly high for ourselves and struggled early our first couple of years. But, now the current freshmen came into a culture that has breaded excellence.”
Both Jones’ squad and the women’s soccer team will kick off their seasons in August without their top scorers from 2016 due to graduation. The men’s team will also have to adapt without the majority of field players who started at least 10 games last season.
“The group that graduated is going to be difficult to replace – there’s no doubt about that,” Jones said. “We lose quite a lot, but if the guys live up to the potential we hope we can make a splash. We are going to be younger than we have been, we had a fairly older group last year.”
GW is currently searching for new coaches for both water polo and volleyball after resignations of head coaches Adam Foley and Amanda Ault were announced at the end of May.
Nero said that in the searches he is looking for individuals who can do more than just help the programs win games.
“In all coaching searches, we prioritize several things,” he said. “They have to be great partners with the University and support our academic mission. Last, but far from least, we’re competitive people who want to win.”