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Women’s Rookie of the Year nominees highlight recruiting success

Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Media Credit: Zach Montellaro | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Women’s basketball player Caira Washington was named Women’s Rookie of the Year.

You can call it a “Nero-recruited class.”

They are the second group of freshmen recruited by GW coaching staffs who were either retained or hired under third-year athletic director Patrick Nero. At the third-annual Georgey Awards on Thursday, this year’s best rookies displayed the new era in GW athletics.

At last year’s awards, the men’s Rookie of the Year category included an All-American in men’s water polo, a men’s basketball 30-game starter, a record-setting swimming champion and an All-Conference First Team tennis player. This year, it was the women’s Rookie of the Year category that shined – with two winners.

Caira Washington, who was also named Atlantic 10 women’s basketball Rookie of the Year, and Chelsea Raineri, who took home East Atlantic Gymnastics League Rookie of the Year, will share the award, which is based on a student-athlete vote.

Last year’s victor, women’s squash’s Anna Gabriela Porras, won the award almost hands-down after being named the first All-American in GW squash program history. But Nero said this year’s winner was far less certain.

“I think that was probably the toughest award to pick this year because there were so many of them,” Nero said.

Women’s basketball coach Jonathan Tsipis said every program in the athletic department has tried to raise the bar in “recruiting a higher-quality student athlete.”

In recent years, GW freshmen have joined their programs with the ability to immediately impact their teams’ rosters. Tsipis recalled the reaction of gymnastics head coach Margie Foster-Cunningham when Raineri demonstrated her capabilities in competitions right away. Tsipis said he felt the same way for Washington’s debut.

The two of them took to the top of their conferences, particularly dominating their class.

“That’s that competitive nature in coaches, but I think as a program, that’s what Mr. Nero has challenged us,” Tsipis said. “We want to make it that right fit. To have both of them win is great, and I know even in the process that was the most competitive category.”

The other nominees included softball player Megan Linn, who leads her team in hits, runs scored and batting average, with one series left to play. Volleyball middle blocker Chidima Osuchukwu, who was voted to the A-10 All-Rookie Team and Second Team All-Conference as she led the Colonials in blocks and was second in kills, also made the list.

Women’s squash’s Breanne Flynn, who won a team-best 16 matches, was another nominee. The women’s team won the program’s first-ever Kurtz Cup this year and finished the season with its highest-ever ranking – No. 9 in the nation.

The rookie classes have consistently boosted their respective teams each season since Nero arrived. Both Linn and Osuchukwu were named MVPs for their respective teams.

“Seeing everyone achieve such great things has made me want to work even harder next year, so I can’t wait,” Flynn said.

More sports funding helps lure higher profile athletes and coaching staffs that include top recruiters from their respective regions, like women’s basketball coach Bill Ferrara and newly inked men’s recruiter Carmen Maciariello.

As the 2013-2014 season wraps up, Nero said he has big hopes for the steadily growing regional powerhouse of a program.

He pointed to men’s tennis player Francisco Dias, who won Rookie of the Year two years ago and was recently named A-10 Performer of the Year for the second time in his GW career.

“Those rookies of the year have continued to get better,” Nero said.

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