Men’s Squash Season Outlook
Colonials aim to break into the top-eight
After ending the 2016-17 season by matching their highest ranking in program history of 11th in the nation, the George Washington men’s squash team has its sights set on becoming a top-eight team in the College Squash Association (CSA).
Coming off a season that saw wins over then-No. 10 Cornell and then-No.12 Western Ontario, the Colonials are primed to reach new heights in 2017-18.
“Our goal is to be in the A Division, which means being in the top-eight schools in the country, and we are only three spots out of that,” said head coach Wendy Lawrence. “It’s incredibly hard to move just one or even two spots, but I think we have the talent and the enthusiasm. It’s a young squad; they’re not burned out and they’re very eager to make their mark. The men have never been in the A Division and that is certainly their goal. One spot below means they win the national championship in the B Division, which is still prestigious and would be a first-time thing for them, but to make it into the Elite 8 is pretty impressive.”
GW will be relying on six talented newcomers to step into the lineup and fill the void of graduated seniors Andres de Frutos, Nicolas Valderrama, and Josh Marks. In their place is a group of strong student-athletes that have earned national notoriety with a large amount of playing experience from all around the world in Mohammad Alterki (Mishref, Kuwait), Inaki de Laurrari Coral (Bogota, Colombia), Luke Stauffer (Philadelphia, Pa.), Zane Jeka (Philadelphia, Pa.), Salim Khan (Bellevue, Wash.), and Julian Jervis (Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands).
“We expect all six newcomers to play in the top nine this season,” said Lawrence. “It’s going to be very competitive to be in the top nine this year where last year it was strong up to a point and then weaker towards the bottom end of the ladder. Right now, it has shaken up that Mohammed Alterki will be at the top of our group with Salim Kahn playing in the third position. When it’s all said and done, I believe all of the new guys will have an impact on the team’s success this year.”
Lawrence is equally excited for the six upperclassmen returning to the roster.
“Our Director of Strength and Conditioning Matt Johnson has been really pleased with everybody’s fitness and level of commitment over the offseason and into the preseason,” said Lawrence. “The whole team feels stronger and ready to attack this season after ending last year on such a high note.”
Senior co-captains Oisin Logan and Billy Berner will look to continue their success as they lead the men’s squash squad this season. Logan posted a team-high 12-5 record at the No. 2 position on the ladder last season and sits in sixth place on GW’s all-time career victories list with 39 career wins. Berner also had a strong 2016-17 season, notching a 6-4 record at No. 6 and a 3-4 record at No. 5.
Also returning is Cairo, Egypt, native Moudy Abdel-Maksoud. He has accumulated 24 wins in his first two seasons and went 7-2 at No. 3 last season.
“Moudy is expected to be our No. 1,” said Lawrence. “He worked hard all summer after having a back injury and is looking really good. We have a lot of confidence in him and expect him to lead us through some tough matches.”
Coming off a breakout freshman campaign is Jamie Oakley, who posted seven victories in his debut season, all at the No. 1 position on the ladder. The Tauranga, New Zealand, native finished his first collegiate squash season as the runner-up in Malloy Cup (South Division) at the CSA Individual National Championships.
With a strong group of upperclassmen and influx of fresh talent, Lawrence has noticed a new sense of competitiveness within the team.
“Guys don’t want to come here after being recruited and not be in the starting lineup,” said Lawrence. “The bottom and top of the ladder is going to be incredibly competitive. It’s an ego sort of thing. They know they’re playing on the team, and that they’re in the top nine, but they want to be No. 1 or they want to be in the top three.”
The 2017-18 season will feature some of the Colonials’ toughest matches yet, as they will face seven teams that finished last season in the top 10 of the CSA National Poll.
“If you look at it closely, our schedule is pretty evenly divided between teams ranked above us and teams ranked below us,” said Lawrence. “We’re playing seven teams that are above us in the rankings. We’re setting ourselves up to upset any one of those teams. But, we have people chomping at our heels here too who are just below us. They are just as eager as we are to move up. We’re not like other sports where we’re looking to have a certain amount of wins and a certain amount of losses. The win-loss record doesn’t bother us at all. What we’re just trying to do is move up in the rankings and be in the top-eight.”
The Colonials open their season on Friday evening when William & Mary visits the Matthew J. Grossman Squash Courts at Lerner Health and Wellness Center for a 6 p.m. match. The men’s squash squad will then take on Bucknell on Saturday at 12:00 p.m.
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