Men’s squash shoots for a top rank after exhibition success

Media Credit: Sam Frey | Hatchet Photographer

Freshman Salim Khan swings at the ball during the Colonials' Saturday match against Bucknell.

With less than a week before the start of the regular season, the men’s squash team said they hope to break into the “elite eight” – the nation’s top eight teams – for the first time in program history.

The Colonials, who began competition this weekend with two exhibition wins, sit at No. 11 in the College Squash Association rankings. Although they only have a few spots to move up, head coach Wendy Lawrence said the goal is not as easy as it sounds.

“Moving up just one or two spots can be very tough,” Lawrence said. “We need one or two good wins against the teams above us. Our goal is realistic but difficult.”

Last season, the Colonials also started the year in the No. 11 slot, but only remained there for two weeks. They dropped as low as 14th place in early February, but returned to the No. 11 position again after winning two games at the CSA nationals and finishing the season with a 9-8 record.

Reaching the top grouping would place GW in the A Division alongside top teams, including Trinity, Harvard and St. Lawrence. The Colonials have competed in the B Division for the past three years, after getting promoted from the C Division.

Whatever GW is able to achieve this season will be accomplished largely by a new roster. This year’s team features six new faces: five freshmen and one transfer. Lawrence said the first-year players will help the Colonials achieve their goal as they play in larger roles than freshmen on other teams.

“The unique thing is that all of them, with the exception of one, will be playing in the top nine,” Lawrence said. “Usually freshmen start at 12 or 13 and work their way up, but this is a very strong freshman class.”

The new players had their first chance to play against a collegiate opponent in an exhibition match against William and Mary Friday at the Lerner Heath and Wellness Center. Freshmen Salim Khan and Mohammed Alterki picked up wins in the top two spots en route to GW’s 9–0 sweep of the Tribe.

In the No. 4 seed, Inaki De Laurrari Coral – a freshman from Bogota, Colombia – did not allow his opponent to score one point in the three set contest.

The Colonials returned to the court Saturday and swept their second exhibition opponent Bucknell 9–0. They featured the same lineup as Friday and did not allow any Bison player to score more than six points in a game.

Senior Billy Berner – who won both of his matchups from the No. 6 position over the weekend – said the addition of new players creates a necessary sense of healthy competition for returning teammates.

“The more guys the better, that way we have more competition,” Berner said. “With more competition, we all get to improve.”

Players said they hope the internal competition and camaraderie they have built will help GW keep up with other teams that play more difficult schedules, including tournaments.

“The other team has a better sense of competition and that gives them an advantage,” junior Moudy Abdel-Maksoud said. “However, our team’s bond and chemistry is our greatest strength, and that is something not everyone has.”

Abdel-Maksoud and sophomore Jamie Oakley, who both regularly played in the top three positions and finished with a combined 15-10 record last year, did not see action in either of GW’s exhibitions.

But Lawrence said she is looking at strengths and weaknesses of both returners and newcomers to figure out the team’s potential and lineup options.

She said her main focus is on keeping the players in shape throughout the year by creating a partnership with trainers in the athletic department that allows each member of the roster to focus on the physical aspect of preparation.

“When I came to the program almost 11 years ago, the University didn’t offer strength and condition to squash,” Lawrence said. “Working with the trainers to make our boys fit and flexible has been wonderful and definitely helping.”

GW will officially begin its season Saturday in a noon contest against Trinity at home.

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