Updated: Feb. 18, 2019 at 6:30 p.m.
A series of midseason roster shakeups have forced No. 14 men’s squash (6-7) to reconsider the team’s expectations for the year.
The Colonials (6-7) entered the season with the goal of besting their No. 9 ranking from last season, a program-best finish for GW. But absences from the team’s top players and the squad’s longest losing streak since 2014 could prove to be too large of a set back for the team.
Junior Jamie Oakley, who occupied the No. 4 spot on the team’s ladder, has not seen competition since Dec. 9 due to injury. Senior Moudy Abdel-Maksoud, who has played this season at the No. 1 spot, did not compete with the team in New York last weekend because he broke “team rules,” according to an athletic department spokeswoman, leaving the Colonials without two of their top players.
“Our push to be in the top eight is put in pretty serious jeopardy given the loss of these top-four players, and there’s no question about it,” head coach Wendy Lawrence said. “Our hope now is to sustain a position in the top 12.”
A finish in the top 12 would land the Colonials in the College Squash Association B-Division, which the team won last season, while a top-eight placement would put GW in the CSA A-Division for the first time in program history.
Moudy holds a team-best 7–2 individual record this season with Oakley close behind holding a 5–4 record on the year. With both players out of commission, the rest of the Colonials have been forced to move up the ladder and play higher levels of competition, which Lawrence said is “difficult” but the team has taken it as a “challenge.”
The Colonials opened their season on a four-match losing streak – their longest since 2014 – after winning their first two matches, but rounded out the calendar year going 2–1 in their final three matches before winter break.
“They had a really hard schedule, intentionally designed to toughen them up,” Lawrence said. “Their only loss that was unexpected was their loss against Western Ontario and that just affected their ranking more dramatically than we anticipated.”
The Colonials again got off to a rocky start this year after a monthlong break in their schedule. GW traveled to Stanford on Jan. 9 – the last competition Abdel-Maksoud played in – where the Colonials swept the Cardinal 9–0. The team then made the trek to Rochester, N.Y. on Saturday and Sunday, where they were dropped 2–7 and 0–9 by St. Lawrence and Rochester, respectively. But the Colonials pulled an upset over No. 8 Navy Wednesday night at home, besting the Midshipmen 7–2.
“With Moudy being out, everyone has more responsibility to do well,” sophomore Salim Khan said.
Khan moved up the ladder and competed in the No. 2 spot against St. Lawrence and Rochester after beginning the season in the No. 3 spot, but he fell in both of his matches 3–0 over the weekend. Khan bested his Navy opponent in four games Wednesday at the No. 2 spot.
Sophomore Mohammad Alterki, who started the season at the No. 2 spot, competed at the top spot in the ladder against St. Lawrence and Rochester and was one of two Colonials to come out of the weekend with an individual win. Lawrence said Alterki had the “match of his college career” against St. Lawrence after he downed their top player in three games, and continued that momentum with a five-game victory over Navy at the top spot.
“As players have moved up in the ladder, I think we just mentally have to go into every match thinking that we can win the match,” Alterki said. “We were not just pushed up to a spot or two, we can actually compete at that level and at that position.”
In the midst of the team’s losing streak, Lawrence and players said the team’s lack of fitness was one of the reasons for their struggles. Thirteen matches into the season, Lawrence said she is “disappointed” in the current level of fitness of her team, which has been an “issue” for their advancement in the rankings.
The Colonials are also feeling the effect of losing Oisin Logan, the program’s winningest player, to graduation last season, Lawrence said. Logan led the Colonials last season with a 12–5 record and won in matches against several higher-ranked opponents.
“At the beginning of the year, I felt that we could rise to the occasion and make up for his spot,” Lawrence said. “That hasn’t been the case so far.”
Even with their win over Navy, the team’s first defeat over an A-Division opponent this year, the Colonials have a tough slate ahead of them with four matches left before the Mid-Atlantic Squash Conference Championship, three of which are against better-ranked opponents. GW will face No. 13 Virginia, No. 7 Yale and No. 3 Columbia before competing in championship matches. The Colonials host No. 11 Drexel in their final regular season match before they compete in the CSA Team Nationals.
“The team is really competing well,” Khan said. “It’s very difficult, obviously, because we all move up a spot, but I think the team is doing well to take on that extra role we’re given.”
The Colonials return to action noon Sunday to take on No. 21 Williams College.
Emily Maise contributed reporting.
This post is updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly identified the player in the photo. It is sophomore Salim Khan. We regret this error.