With four months until their final slated match, both squash programs are shooting to move up at least one spot in the national rankings and continue the trajectory they began last season.
Men’s and women’s squash kicked off the 2018-19 season with clean sweeps over the weekend. The Colonials went 9–0 against Georgetown’s club squash team to open the season with a perfect record. The men’s team picked up one more clean sweep against Hobart and before being edged by Western Ontario 5-4 to round out the weekend.
The men’s team achieved its highest ranking in program history last season when it won the College Squash Association Hoehn Cup (B-Division) and broke into the top 10 in the College Squash Association national rankings at No. 9, the program’s highest national ranking. This season, head coach Wendy Lawrence said the men have their eyes on a spot in the coveted A-Division, which houses the top-eight teams.
“It sounds like it’s not a big jump, but moving one or two spots when you’re up in the rarefied air of the top eight, it’s very hard to do,” Lawrence said.
The women’s side finished No. 14 in the nation last season, two spots down from GW’s ranking the year before. Lawrence said she aims for the women’s team to jump back into the No. 12 spot this season.
On the men’s side, the Colonials have focused on increasing the pace of matches and working to better control the game while honing their craft and improving discipline through repetitive drills.
“Our trainings are focused more so on discipline more than anything these days, so there’s a lot of repetition,” senior Julian Jervis said. “As a team, we’re a bit more disciplined this year than we were last year.”
The Colonials retained 10 members of last year’s 13-man squad, including senior Moudy Abdel-Maksoud who earned CSA Second Team All-American honors last season. Four returners played in the quarterfinals of last year’s CSA Individual National Championships in the Molloy North, South and East divisions.
The men add three freshmen to the mix to replace three graduates, including 2018-graduate and three-time team MVP Oisin Logan, who led the team last season with 20 victories and holds the program record in career singles victories.
Sophomore Salim Khan said the whole team is stepping up and improving their game to fill the void left by last year’s senior class.
“A lot of people who were lower on the ladder last year are really moving up this year, and they’re all trying to improve their games a lot,” Khan said.
With only 10 rostered players, the women’s squad has the smallest lineup at GW since the 2010-11 season in a conference that houses teams that range from 11 to 13 players, but Lawrence said she expects the women’s team to slide up two spots into the conference’s top 12.
Junior Emma Tryon said the women want to improve their shot selection on the court to help them climb up the rankings by not being afraid to try new skills in practice.
“Squash is live chess,” Tryon said. “We’re trying to figure out sequences and the right shots.”
Junior Engy Elmandouh said the women’s squad has increased the amount of cardio and endurance training they do to be fitter than their competition. The team has implemented various speed drills and weight lifting to gain strength and battle fatigue during matches.
“We might not necessarily have technique, but we want to always be fitter than the other team,” Elmandouh said. “We mainly work a lot on footwork and court sprints.”
The women’s squad gained two freshmen and saw three seniors graduate including 2018-graduate Abby Shonrock, who was second on last season’s team with 15 victories.
Elmandouh said losing seniors like Shonrock motivates the team to work harder and pushes them to be better.
“The bar has been raised just because you have to fill in those shoes,” Elmandouh said.
The team retained eight players, including Elmandouh who ranked third on the team last season in victories with 14 and won the Holleran West division consolation bracket, and sophomore Zoe Foo Yuk Han, who led the women’s team with 19 victories last season as No. 1 on the ladder. Six returning players on the women’s squad had eight or more victories last season.
Lawrence said staying healthy this season is critical if both teams want to weather the long season and peak during the right times. The season runs from November through March, and Lawrence said the ideal time for the teams to peak and make a run at nationals is February.
To maintain health and improve performance, Lawrence added an extra day of weight training for both programs this season.
Jervis said the men’s team lost winnable games last season by a small margin of points. The women’s team also endured a few close losses last season, including a loss to Brown that was decided by one match.
“It really, I think, comes down to us playing bigger in those big rallies to win, to close out those games, to win those matches,” Jervis said.
Both teams return to action Saturday when they take on Pennsylvania on the road. The women’s team is slated to begin play at 2:30 p.m. and the men’s team will start at 4:30 p.m.