Men’s squash returned to campus Jan. 11 to resume practice for a truncated season slated to begin in March.
Senior Salim Khan said eight of the team’s nine members are back on campus to compete in the team’s final season as a varsity sport. He said this season the team will change its home venue, players will dawn masks during matches and the squad will compete in a limited schedule.
“It should be interesting because we’re just starting to get back into practice,” he said. “A lot of players haven’t even played since last March before COVID shut everything down. So I think it should be interesting to see how we come back.”
Khan said the Colonials are looking to suit up four times this season in back-to-back rumbles with Navy one weekend and Virginia another weekend. While GW doesn’t have its 2020-21 slate released, Navy has matches against GW listed for March 13 and 14. Virginia has yet to announce a matchup with men’s squash yet.
Athletic department spokesperson Brian Sereno said the men’s squash schedule is still being finalized and will be released prior to the team’s first competition.
“Schedules are still being finalized, and we hope to be able to release them chronologically according to when teams begin their season,” he said in an email.
The Colonials will no longer call the Matthew J. Grossman Squash Courts home during the 2020-21 season. The courts are inaccessible due to HVAC repairs, and the team has instead been practicing and will play its matches at Squash on Fire, Khan said.
The squad will return six members of last season’s team and welcome two new additions – freshman Ismail Atef Abdelgawad Al and junior Henry Ohrstrom. Khan said the team will play without sophomore Moustafa Montaser, who earned seven victories last season playing at the top of the ladder, after he chose to remain in Egypt amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sophomore David Varela, who notched six victories playing at the middle rungs of the ladder, will also not return to the team, according to the 2020-21 roster.
With players hailing from three different countries and cities around the United States, Khan said the varying degrees of virus-related lockdowns meant some athletes lacked access to practice courts. He added that players from Colombia were unable to train for most of the summer, but some clubs in the United States remained open or partially open.
“Everybody has a different situation, but I think everybody tried to do the most that they could with what they had,” he said.
But now that players are back in the District and back to practice, Khan said he and his teammates are working on separate courts and undergoing a “gradual” return to practice. He added that for the first five weeks of practice, the athletes hit the ball to themselves and slowly added more movement to work back to a normal pace.
Players are socially distanced on their own courts, and Khan said student-athletes wear masks at all times.
“When we play squash, like on court, we have to wear masks,” he said. “When we play in our matches this following month, we’re going to have to wear masks as well. But I think it’s very difficult to play with a mask just because it’s hard to breathe, but I mean, all sports are doing it now, and so I think we’ll be able to adapt well to wearing masks.”
GW joins a small number of squash teams playing a season after the Ivy League and Liberty League canceled competition for winter sports during the pandemic. The College Squash Association also canceled team national championships and individual national championships after teams announced they would sit out the 2020-21 season.
Women’s squash will not play a 2020-21 season because of limited competition, and the majority of team members are opting to stay home rather than travel to Foggy Bottom during the pandemic.
Khan said the CSA will grant another year of eligibility to student-athletes, and because GW will discontinue its squash programs at the conclusion of this season, student-athletes would need to find another institution to continue their playing careers. He added that he has considered transferring next year, but he hasn’t made his mind up yet.
“It’s great just being able to practice again and see the guys in a somewhat normal environment instead of just being cooped up in our rooms all day,” Khan said.