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Squash programs eager to prove themselves among nation’s best

Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor
Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Men’s and women’s squash opened the 2016–2017 season on Nov. 9 as two of GW’s highest nationally ranked teams. Both squads will look to prove their dominance this winter and earn a chance to compete nationally at the end of the year.

Men’s and women’s squash both have high expectations for the season, entering the season as No. 11 and No. 13 in the U.S., respectively.

In 2015–2016, the men (1–2) made their first ever appearance in the Hoehn Cup (B Division) of the College Squash Association National Championship. Although the team graduated two top contributing seniors Reid Breck and James Reiss, they plan for their new freshmen to take on major roles.

“We have a strong core of returners, including three seniors and three very talented freshmen, including one who is playing the No. 1 for us, Jamie Oakley from New Zealand,” head coach Wendy Lawrence said. “With this set of players, my goal is to climb into the top eight in the nation to gain a spot in the A Division at CSA Nationals.”

Lawrence, who helms both programs, was recently named to Squash Magazine’s Top 50 – a list that recognizes the most influential people in each state for their leadership in the sport of squash.

During her nine-year tenure as head coach, Lawrence has pushed her players to train hard for the season, emphasizing the importance of offseason individual work for the benefit of the team.

“Everyone on the team worked really hard individually over the summer wherever they were,” junior captain Oisin Logan said. “There was a group of us in D.C. over the summer, and we trained together almost every day. We got to hold each other accountable for playing even when it wasn’t mandatory.”

Logan is joined by seniors Andres de Frutos and Nicolas Valderrama, who as a pair have compiled 62 individual victories and 31 team wins as Colonials. A trio of juniors in Billy Berner, John Bassett and Omar Mussehl, as well as sophomore Moudy Abdel-Maksoud, round out the lineup.

“We are a stronger team in the four through seven positions on the ladder, which is where we were weak last year,” Lawrence said. “We are also stronger at the top, so I believe we can beat several teams who are not as deep.”

The team took down Georgetown 8–1 in its season-opener earlier this month but was swept at No. 6 Penn and defeated by No. 12 Princeton 8-1 over the weekend.

The women’s team (2–2) graduated four seniors, including four-time All-American and the program’s all-time wins leader Anna Gabriela Porras, but welcomes five new freshmen.

“We worked hard to find a great, talented group of freshmen who we felt would inject energy and enthusiasm,” Lawrence said. “They really solidify the middle core of our lineup.”

Two of the freshmen, Engy El Mandouh and Samira Baird, competed in the U.S. Squash Intercollegiate Doubles Championship in October and finished second overall. Freshman Emma Tryon led the lineup with a win at the No. 1 spot during last Sunday’s match against Johns Hopkins.

Two seasons ago, the women’s team appeared in the Howe Cup for the first time in program history. Last year, the Colonials were unable to repeat that performance, mainly due to injury of three top players. To remain healthy this season, the team has focused on strength and conditioning more than they have in the past, senior captain Breanne Flynn said.

“Since we’ve been back at GW at the start of fall, we have been doing a lot of conditioning on the squash court and matched that with building our strength in the weight room,” Flynn said. “It was a grueling two months, but at the end of it we are stronger, fitter and eager to face our opponents.”

The strong lineup begins with Flynn, who is coming off of an All-American season and a victory at the B Division D Draw Championship. Joining Flynn is junior duo Mary Jo Mahfood and Abby Shonrock. With her 18 career wins at GW, Shonrock had a run in the B Division C Draw at the CSA National Individual Championships this past spring.

“This year we are all eager to improve and prove to other teams that we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Flynn.

The squad jumped to a 2–0 record with sweeps of Georgetown and Johns Hopkins to open the year but, along with the men, dropped contests at No. 2 Penn and No. 4 Princeton.

Both teams return to action at Virginia on Dec. 2.

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