Men’s squash uses versatile ladder to move up in national rankings

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Freshman Zane Jeka looks to return a ball during a men's squash practice Thursday.

Depth and internal competition has allowed men’s squash to rise to its best national ranking in nearly two years.

In the past 15 days, the Colonials have won five of their seven matches – all on the road – and are now positioned at No. 10 in the College Squash Association rankings.

After several shifts near the top of the ladder and multiple players recovering from injuries, GW has found its way to a 9-6 record, including six 9–0 victories.

“Just breaking in the top 10, obviously psychologically it is a great number to hit,” head coach Wendy Lawrence said. “Every year we set team goals, I set them with the team and I set them with the athletic department. That was a big one.”

During the stretch, GW’s top two veteran players – junior Moudy Abdel-Maksoud and senior Oisin Logan – have been a large part of the team’s success at the top of the ladder. Currently at the No. 1 spot, Abdel-Maksoud holds a 9-3 record, and splitting time between the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, Logan is 11-4 on the year.

Despite the duo’s recent success, they are only two of five Colonials to play multiple matches in GW’s top two spots this season. Players said the similar talent across the roster and tightly contested challenge matches have been a key factor in their success.

“The team is very competitive,” Abdel-Maksoud said. “One through nine, all of them are so close to one another and anyone can lose or win to anyone, especially in the top five.”

Lawrence – who is in her 11th year coaching in Foggy Bottom – said she hasn’t had this much ladder change at the top in seven years. But the difference this year has been the arrival of strong first-year players and returners recovering from injury, she said.

Abdel-Maksoud and sophomore Jamie Oakley, who played against No. 1 and No. 2 players this past weekend, respectively, both had recent injury concerns. Ever since playing at the top of the ladder during his debut season, Abdel-Maksoud has battled with a back injury that disrupted his play for more than a year.

Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

After winning five consecutive games in January, men’s squash ranks as the No. 10 team in the country.

“I didn’t imagine I would be able to compete at that level again, nor play squash again at some point,” Abdel-Maksoud said. “Thoughts of quitting came to my mind and it was just tough overall. To be able to be back, I am grateful.”

Oakley, who played 15 matches at the No. 1 spot last season, has experienced neck troubles this season that have limited his playing opportunities. In his absence – at games against Navy, Cornell and Williams – other members of the team stepped up.

“We were lucky, we pulled out wins of all of those three matches,” Lawrence said. “It really worried us that dropping him out of the lineup and moving everybody else would be a problem.”

Among the players that increased their load in Oakley’s absence are a group of freshmen that occupy the middle of the Colonials’ lineup. Lawrence said the team’s group of five freshmen and one junior transfer bring strong, reliable talent to the No. 4-7 spots.

“They have just contributed a big strength, mostly in the middle of our lineup,” she said. “Before we were stronger on the top, but a little bit weaker on the bottom so these six new players have really just made us so much more solid.”

Freshmen Mohammad Alterki and Salim Khan swapped between the top two positions during the opening six games of the year. The duo has won a combined eight of the last 12 matches, after losing against top-ranked teams earlier in the season.

“Being number one was tough, but what was even harder was maintaining the number one position,” Alterki said. “I played really tough players from other teams that were also number one’s. Now I am number four.”

Fellow freshman Inaki de Larrauri Coral has filled the middle of GW’s lineup with 10 wins, while junior transfer Julian Jervis has begun to find his fitness and touch at the No. 7 spot after breaking his foot during the offseason.

Lawrence said the difference between her No. 4 and No. 8 player is very small.

“They are so solid that there is not a big drop off at any position,” Lawrence said.

Still, players said the best part about their group of teammates is how well they all get along and fight their hardest to win the internal challenge matches.

The team’s ultimate goal for this year and the future is to get ranked in the top eight and to have the chance to compete against the A Division teams during nationals, players said.

“I am definitely content, but not fully satisfied,” Abdel-Maksoud said. “We were a few points away from beating Princeton and Dartmouth, so I believe we have a chance to move up in the top eight.”

Without a top-10 team on the remainder of their schedule, the Colonials need to rely on higher ranked teams to fall in order to get into the top division. As it currently stands, they will be one of the top seeds in the B Division.

GW returns to action against Georgetown Friday at 5:30 p.m. for their first home match in nearly two months.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.