Men’s and women’s squash work toward consistency despite roster shifts

Senior Juan Sebastian Laguna rallies the ball in Saturday's match against Dickinson.

After spending a two-week stretch on the road last month, men’s and women’s squash are heading back to the Foggy Bottom Campus with an altered roster.

During its time on the road, the No. 12 men’s squad (8-8) and the No. 14 women’s team (5-12) took on top teams and battled with roster changes. Head coach Anderson Good said that while the squads bonded during their time away from campus, the men and women need to work to improve consistency on the court and become more patient during rallies.

Two members of the men’s team – junior Mohammad Alterki, who played consistently at the No. 1 spot this season, and freshman Ian Blatchford, who played at the No. 8 and No. 9 rungs – no longer appear on the squad’s roster. The duo last appeared in the Colonials’ 5-4 upset of Colombia, which marked the final match of their fall slate Nov. 24.

Good declined to say why the two players are not listed on the roster.

“It was tough,” Good said. “Our rosters changed a little bit, but it’s really just knowing that we’re right still there, even if a couple key parts of our lineup aren’t there anymore.”

Over its five-game road stretch, the Colonials earned two wins against Navy and Williams and extended their winning streak to five games in its spring slate. But the squad dropped three straight matches to Dartmouth, Cornell and Yale, winning eight of 27 games. Senior Juan Sebastian Laguna, senior Jamie Oakley and junior Salim Khan notched two individual wins throughout the losses.

Good added that the team still has a chance at a successful season despite the changing roster and losses, adding that the team’s character was defined in moments of struggle.

Laguna said the men’s squad has focused on physical fitness to match its competitors, running “pyramids” to improve cardio during practice and maintaining consistent routines in the weight room.

“Our main weakness is more fitness-wise, but we’re working on that now because the top eight of the teams in the squash league are very fit,” Laguna said.

The women’s squad entered its road span riding a three-game win streak complete with two clean sweeps. But over the trip, the Colonials dropped all six matches. Junior Zoe Foo Yuk Han went 4-2 at the No. 1 spot over that span and of the 48 matches lost, 14 went into extra games.

Despite the losses, senior Engy Elmandouh said the experience has helped players grow together as a team, improve their confidence on the court and change up their approach to the rest of the season.

“I think those were the matches where, because it wasn’t so intense and there wasn’t so much pressure, they could go for shots that are more difficult or they’re not as used to playing during matches,” Elmandouh said. “It gave us things, positive things that we’re really good at and things that we can work on.”

Freshman Aariya Patel no longer appears on the women’s roster. Her last game was Nov. 24 against Colombia, but the squad added freshman Grace Stevenson and Claire Foley for the spring slate. Prior to the two new additions, the Colonials were forced to play just eight spots on the ladder and defaulted the ninth match.

“Having a full roster takes a lot of the pressure away,” Elmandouh said. “And they’ve been great. They really assimilated really well to the team. They have such a great attitude on court and off of it, so I think overall they’re such a bigger addition and we love having them.”

Among the six teams the Colonials played in their road stretch, all six hold a lower College Squash Association ranking. Good said the tough competition showed the Colonials their need to be consistent and patient in rallies and create opportunities on the court to meet higher levels of competition.

“It’s always a great experience, playing stronger teams like that and seeing what parts of our game they take advantage of so easily and where we can improve,” Good said. “It’s just incredible now, being able to know what we have to do to get to where we want to go.”

The men’s and women’s teams are back in action Feb. 7 through Feb. 9 for the Mid-Atlantic Squash Conference Championships.

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