Courtside

Your Guide to GW sports

Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Updated: July 23, 2016 at 3:55 p.m.

Men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan posted on his Facebook page Friday amid “verbal and emotional abuse,” allegations reported by the Washington Post.

“I have always loved my family and that family includes our basketball family. My life is dedicated to them,” the fifth-year head coach wrote. “I have never done anything but love my players and supported them on or off the court-not just for 4 years but for life. That will continue.”

“I want to thank all my players and their parents who publicly and privately supported me today and refuted the false allegations made against me. You are the reason I’ve been able to live such a blessed life. God bless you all! John 8:32.”

The statement comes one day after the Post published an article that cites former and current players, as well as former team staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the “offensive, intolerable environment” created by Lonergan.

Scott Tompsett, Lonergan’s attorney, also provided ESPN with a statement on behalf of the coach on Thursday afternoon.

“The Washington Post article is full of lies and half-truths. For example, GWU administrators did not ‘address concerns’ with Coach Lonergan last year. Rather, they looked into allegations and after a thorough investigation, concluded that Coach Lonergan had not violated University policy and that no further action would be taken.”

“The fact of the matter is that the anonymous accusations are not new and they are not true.”

“Coach Lonergan has a well-earned reputation in the college basketball world as a coach who runs his program with integrity and respect. He has always been a champion of diversity and inclusion. Coach Lonergan celebrates those values. Coach Lonergan is proud of his team and its accomplishments both on and off the court. He will aggressively defend himself and his program against false and defamatory accusations.”

A number of former players, including Patricio Garino, Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek have publicly defended their former coach.

A GW spokesman said in a statement to the Hatchet Thursday that the University will be bringing in outside counsel to assist in the investigation of allegations against Lonergan.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that head coach Mike Lonergan’s Facebook post had been deleted. Nothing has been deleted off of Lonergan’s Facebook page. We regret this error.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016 5:19 p.m.

Former players defend Lonergan on Twitter

Updated: June 21, 2016 at 10:51 p.m.

Several former players came out in defense of Mike Lonergan on Twitter Thursday after the Washington Post reported damning allegations against the fifth-year men’s basketball head coach.

Speaking to the Post under the condition of anonymity, multiple former and current players, as well as former team staffers, detailed the toxic environment Lonergan created through “verbal and emotional abuse,” as well as inappropriate comments made about Athletic Director Patrick Nero.

Recent graduate and Argentine Olympian Patricio Garino, part of Lonergan’s 2016 NIT Championship team last season, said he was, “shocked,” upon reading the accusations.

“Coach [Lonergan] is very old school and he’s going to push you to the limits to reach your potential,” Garino said in a statement posted to his Twitter account Wednesday.

“I owe a lot of my success to Coach Lonergan and his coaching staff through four years, I truly wouldn’t be close to playing in the Olympics if it wasn’t for him,” he wrote. “I love all my teammates that I had through four years but I don’t agree with their ‘anonymity’ to say things behind a screen. If you have a problem solve it face to face. I will be loyal to the GW family, Nero and Lonergan for life.”

Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Creek, who helped the Colonials reach the 2014 NCAA Tournament as a senior and graduate student, respectively, also took to Twitter to denounce the report.

This is 100% bullshit. Verbal and emotional abuse. Are you serious? Players are soft…,” Armwood said in a tweet. “I was under Lonergan for 3 years. We bumped heads often, but this story is ridiculous,” read another.

“Man listen Coach Lonergan is a great coach…Haven’t even read the story and I won’t read it..This article is ridiculous #StopTheNonsense,” Creek wrote.

Garino’s tweet was also liked by graduate student forward Tyler Cavanaugh, entering his second and final season at GW this fall, and former point guard Joe McDonald.

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Current and former men's basketball players and staffers said head coach Mike Lonergan created an uncomfortable team environment. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Current and former men’s basketball players and staffers said head coach Mike Lonergan creates an uncomfortable team environment. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Updated: July 21, 2016 at 10:52 p.m.

Fifth-year men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan has come under fire for “verbal and emotional abuse” of players, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

The article cites former and current men’s basketball players as well as team staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The allegations follow three offseason transfers from the program, and a total of 13 transfers in the past five years.

“I don’t think the guy should be in sports,” one former player told the Post. “I don’t think what he said should be tolerated. I would like to stay at GW. I will not play for Mike Lonergan.”

“A lot of kids transfer because they have delusions of grandeur,” a former team staffer added. “Nobody transferred from GW with delusions of grandeur. They just transferred because they hated him. They couldn’t stand another second of him.”

One complaint was filed to Title IX Coordinator Rory Muhammad as recently as early April, following the team’s 2016 NIT Championship, according to the Post. The player said Lonergan created an offensive, uncomfortable environment and complained the coach had made repeated graphic remarks about Athletic Director Patrick Nero.

Muhammad told the player that Lonergan’s behavior had previously been “handled,” according to the Post.

Among other complaints, five current and former players said Lonergan told them Nero “requested the practice tapes so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office.” Other current and former players said Lonergan told one player in front of the team that “he should transfer to a ‘transgender league.’”

“I will not respond to anonymous, unfounded allegations,” Lonergan told the Post. “These types of accusations have already been investigated by the University and found to be groundless.”

“Those who know me know that I conduct myself and run my program with integrity. I have a long record of graduating student-athletes who go on to be successful in life. I am proud of my student-athletes’ success on the court and in the classroom, and I am focused on preparing for the upcoming season,” he added.

“As reported today by the Washington Post, the George Washington University is undertaking a Title IX review of allegations against men’s basketball coach Mike Lonergan,” a university spokesman told the Hatchet in an emailed statement Thursday. “Some of the reported allegations go beyond the scope of Title IX, and the university is bringing in outside counsel to assist in its investigation.  The university expects full cooperation and will not tolerate retaliation during the course of the investigation.  We will also continue to inform the student-athletes on our men’s basketball team of the university’s support and of the resources available to them.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the Washington Post article was published Wednesday. It was published Thursday. We regret this error.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2016 2:16 p.m.

Browning named women’s tennis head coach

Torrie Browning has been named head coach of the women’s tennis program, athletic director Patrick Nero announced Wednesday.

Browning, who has served as interim head coach for both men’s and women’s teams since February, will look to improve a squad that finished 8-14 overall and 4-5 in A-10 play last season.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected as the head coach of GW’s women’s tennis program,” Browning said in a release. “I would really like to thank Patrick Nero and Nicole Early for giving me this amazing opportunity. The team has great potential, and I am extremely excited to continue working with the women’s team.”

The former four-time Missouri Valley All-Conference selection at Wichita State helped lead the men’s program to its third consecutive Atlantic 10 title, and fifth in six years, last spring to earn the conference’s Coach of the Year award.

The women’s side upset No. 2 seed Massachusetts as a No. 7 seed in last year’s A-10 tournament under Browning, before bowing out in the semifinal round.

Eight-student athletes across both teams also earned All-Conference honors in 2016 with Browning at the helm.

“Torrie has proven her ability to lead GW tennis to success,” Nero said. “We are confident that she will continue to shape GW women’s tennis into one of the top programs in the conference as head coach.”

A new head coach for the men’s tennis program has yet to be announced.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016 6:45 p.m.

Pearce to leave GW, join US Sailing

After four years at the helm of the Colonials’ sailing program, head coach John Pearce is leaving his position, athletic director Patrick Nero announced Wednesday.

Pearce will move on to the national ranks after accepting a position with US Sailing as the Youth Development Director. Pearce is returning to the organization after competing with the US Sailing Team in 2005 and 2006 as well as finishing fifth out of 33 racers in the 2007 Olympic trials.

“I’m excited for this opportunity, but leaving GW is very difficult,” Pearce said in a release. “I want to thank the student-athletes, staff, coaches and administrators for making the last four years a great experience for me. I’ll be following the program closely and can’t wait to see what GW Sailing accomplishes in the coming years.”

Pearce was the first-ever head coach of the new GW varsity program that began in 2012 and was quick to lead the Colonials to success.

With a 17th overall finish in the coed nationals and 10th overall finishes in both the Fowle Trophy Standings and the women’s nationals it was clear they were among the top teams in the country during the 2015-2016 season.

According to the release, assistant coach Catherine Shanahan will take over as interim head coach while the athletics department searches for a replacement.

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Women's basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti remembers going up against the late Pat Summitt. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Rizzotti remembers going up against the late Pat Summitt. Hatchet file photo by Dan Rich | Photo Editor

By 1995, Tennessee had already won three national championships under head coach Pat Summitt, appeared in 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments and solidified itself as a titan in the world of Division I women’s basketball.

On Jan. 16 of that year, the No. 1 ranked Lady Vols travelled north to take on an undefeated No. 2 Connecticut program on the rise. The Huskies roster featured budding stars Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters and junior starting point guard Jennifer Rizzotti.

Rizzotti, named head coach of GW women’s basketball this spring, knew her team was an underdog in the first-ever meeting between the two powerhouses.

The Huskies won 77-66.

“There was a tremendous amount of hype around the game and I think we were underestimated,” Rizzotti said in an interview Wednesday. “What Pat Summitt built at Tennessee, and the standard that she set and how badly all of us players at UConn wanted to beat them was just a testament to the respect that she garnered with her program because they were the standard. Everyone in the country was trying to catch them.”

Summitt, who began coaching in 1974 when she was just 22 years old, died Tuesday at the age of 64, five years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

In her 38 years coaching the Lady Vols, Summitt led Tennessee to a staggering 8 national titles, 31 straight NCAA Tournament appearances and 1,098 wins—the most of any DI basketball coach, male or female.

Another career highlight of Summitt’s was leading Tennessee in one of the greatest rivalries in college hoops — one Rizzotti, and the sports world, won’t soon forget.

The epic head-to-head series between Tennessee and UConn spanned 12 years and 22 contests, four of which had national championships on the line, thrust the women’s game into the national conversation for the first time and epitomized Summitt’s legendary influence on the sport.

The teams’ second meeting was just a few months later, at the 1995 NCAA Championship. UConn entered the game at 34-0.

Despite her team’s perfect record, Rizzotti recalls Tennessee still being favored.

“People had said, well UConn wouldn’t have won if they hadn’t played at home,” Rizzotti said. “So they definitely aren’t going to beat [Tennessee] two times in a year and again it was just proof of how much people thought Pat Summitt could pull off anything.”

But the Huskies pulled off a win once again, this time by a score of 70-64. While the victory capped a historic campaign captained by head coach Geno Auriemma, Rizzotti credits Summitt with playing a part in that team’s unprecedented success.

“[Summitt] was such a competitor, she drove her team to be so hard to beat, they played so hard and I would say that we have to give her a lot of credit for the rise of the Connecticut program and where it’s come from that day,” Rizzotti said. “She pushed all of us to be better.”

Tennessee would exact revenge the following year, ousting UConn from the NCAA Tournament in the Final Four during Rizzotti’s senior season, and claim back-to-back-to-back national titles between 1996 and 1998.

The annual regular-season series between the schools was discontinued in 2007, and the sides haven’t met since. UConn currently leads Tennessee 13-9 in the all-time series.

In her 17 years coaching at the University Hartford, where she led the Hawks to four America East Conference championships before coming to Foggy Bottom, Rizzotti never faced off against Summitt, but always was someone she looked up to in her profession.

“One of the things you always hear about her is how hard she was able to drive her kids because of how much she cared about them,” Rizzotti said. “If you want to bring out the best, there has to be a personal relationship that extends beyond the basketball court and when you watch all of these former players and the outpouring of love and respect that they have for her, you know that she did things right.”

Summitt will also be remembered as a trailblazer for women in the college athletics, beginning her tenure just years after Title IX was passed, a law demanding that federally funded educational institutions provide men and women equal opportunity.

“She paved the way for all of us, men and women that are in the game. And women that are in other sports. She’s set the standard for what it means to have equal opportunity for female athletes,” Rizzotti said. “I can’t imagine how hard it used to be to be a coach or a player back in the 60s and 70s so I’m very grateful to her and all the pioneers of our game.”

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Updated: June 23, 2016 at 11:40 a.m.

Although men’s basketball doesn’t tip-off on a new season for a few more months, it’s 2016-17 schedule has already begun taking shape.

Here’s a complete list of matchups that have been announced thus far this offseason. Mark up your calendars while you continue to digest the epic saga that was the 2016 NBA Finals.

Out-of-conference games:

Nov. 11 vs. Maryland Eastern-Shore (Home opener)

Nov. 15 vs. Siena

Nov. 17 vs. Arkansas Pine Bluff

Nov. 21-22 at CBE Classic (Kansas City, Mo.) vs. Georgia/Kansas/UAB

Nov. 26 vs. Penn State

Dec. 4 at BB&T Classic (Verizon Center) vs. Florida State, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein.

Dec. 22 at Miami (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Atlantic 10 pairings (game dates/times TBD)

Note: Each A-10 team will play an 18-game conference schedule. The league’s 14 members face each team at least once and five teams twice.

Home: Dayton, Massachusetts, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Davidson, Duquesne, George Mason, Richmond, VCU

Away: Fordham, La Salle, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s, Davidson, Duquesne, George Mason, Richmond, VCU

The 2017 A-10 Championship will be played on March 8-12 at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

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Sunday, June 12, 2016 6:09 p.m.

Pittsburgh Pirates select Mahala in 18th round

Rising senior Kevin Mahala was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th round of Saturday’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.

As the everyday shortstop for the Colonials, Mahala batted .286 with four home runs and a team-high 47 RBIs. His 20 doubles on the season also led the team, rank second in the Atlantic 10 conference and sit at third most in program history.

As the 555th overall selection in the draft, Mahala becomes the highest GW athlete chosen since Eric Cantrell went in the seventh round to the Kansas City Royals in 2010.

Mahala also joins former teammate Shane Kemp as the only Colonials since the program’s inception to be selected by Pittsburgh. Kemp was a 26th round pick of the 2015 draft and made 10 combined appearances on the mound between two minor league affiliates for the Pirates last season.

The Basking Ridge, NJ native is still expected to return to the Colonials for his senior season after competing with the Wilmar Stingers of the Northwoods League over this summer.

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This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Josh Solomon.

BRONX, N.Y. – As the sun continued to set behind the gothic Keating Hall bell tower, shadows creeped across Fordham’s baseball field, left to right.

The batter was quickly covered in shadows at the Atlantic 10 Championship. Soon the same for the pitcher’s mound. It was starting to get dark in the GW dugout too.

The bell began to chime. It was 7 o’clock and it was the sixth inning of a rematch with No. 2 VCU.

Despite plenty of drama Thursday afternoon,  the season was seemingly over. The Colonials were up to their fourth pitcher of the day, with two others warming up in the pen, down seven runs.

An elimination game had gone ghost on a group ballplayers who busted out for six runs the night prior.

Despite eventually dropping the contest 12–4, it was then, in the sixth, when GW rallied.

The team displayed resilience, even showed off its season motto – grit and gratitude.

It was what head coach Gregg Ritchie would have liked to see – but it was not what the team’s manager saw, at least not in person.

A leadoff home run by junior Bobby Campbell, a double down the left field line to the warning track, a base hit up the middle to score another run. The quick rally was followed by three outs and no more runs. GW would not score again all game.

Ritchie would not see what happened from his usual helm at the team’s dugout steps, a place in which the team would look toward as their pirate ship, in a season embracing the rolling rhythms of the drama-filled Pirates of the Caribbean movies. At home, GW would play the movie’s noteworthy soundtrack when the team scored a run.

Ritchie was thrown out of the game, way out, down the left field line. The third base umpire gave Ritchie the first ejection of his career as a head coach at GW.

In his fourth season, he had apparently come close at least once before this year. This game though was against a VCU team that GW had lost to one day ago in a first round matchup and had lost two-out-of-three to at home during the season.

GW was already trailing 6–2 in the third inning. A starting pitching decision did not pan out well for Ritchie, electing to start sophomore Robbie Metz over his two other usual starters, neither of whom had been pitching well of late, while Metz had barely started all season-long.

Metz gave up two runs in a challenging top of the first inning. The pitches were up and VCU was hitting.

“Robbie hadn’t gotten to pitch a lot. It’s tough,” catcher, senior Matthieu Robért said. “Guys step up and do what they can and that’s all they can do.”

Robért had catching duties in the final two games of the tournament, in lieu of the season’s usual starter, sophomore Brandon Chapman. Ritchie quickly noted after the Saint Louis win that he highly valued his senior’s leadership on the field as a key to the team’s success.

Ritchie would then called on one of the other potential starters, sophomore Brady Renner. He gave up a four-spot in the second, including a three-run home run to almost an identical spot in the left center bleachers as Mahala did to put away Saint Louis last night. Both swings had given their respective teams their sixth run.

With one out in the third, sophomore Mark Osis, who had a breakout season, singled his way on. Then A-10 All Conference First Team first baseman, junior Bobby Campbell came to bat. He looked down at third base coach, Dave Lorber for the signs. No bunt, no hit-and-run, the call on the first pitch allowed Campbell to swing.

Campbell swung and hit the ball off his foot in the batter’s box, a typical foul ball call. The home plate umpire did not call it. Campbell, assuming that was the call, stayed put in the batter’s box. The VCU third baseman who fielded the ball threw to first for the out.

Campbell put up his arms in question. The GW faithful in the stands loudly questioned. Ritchie questioned. He asked for a meeting of the umpires. The umpires met. The umpires decided the play call on the field stood and Campbell was out.

The next batter was at the box and the VCU pitcher was ready to toe the rubber. Then Ritchie left the dugout. He went to the third base umpire, who likely had the best view of the ball off of Campbell’s foot. About a minute into the conversation, the umpire gave him the hook.

After following the umpire all the way into left field, Ritchie eventually would be brought back to the dugout by Lorber. GW’s head coach was greeted by a dugout on the top step, applauding him as he entered and then exited the ballpark.

At that moment, the team was as loud as they had been all year.

“The guys got fired up,” catcher, senior Matthieu Robért said. “Coach has done a lot for me and the team over the past four years, and that’s just one example of him having our back. I think anything else needs to be said. He has our back and he showed it.”

“I’m really thankful that I have a coach that will do that,” Campbell said. “He’ll fight for us.”

The fight was there but the hitting shoes weren’t always aboard GW’s ship this season. The team would not score a run that inning and bring in just two more in the game in a mini-rally in the sixth inning. VCU would continue to tag on runs.

The 2016 campaign was marked by injuries to pitchers in the preseason and core hitters in the middle of conference play. It was one in which the Colonials had a chance to take a hold of first place and could have missed the playoffs altogether; sometimes the timing was right.

The 2016 campaign had its highs and it had its lows, which amounted to a .500 season – 13-13 in A-10 play.

And the 2016 campaign for GW baseball was supposed to be one to win a conference championship.

A team with two senior starters and a lineup filled with returning juniors and sophomores seemed like a strong combination to win it all. A season will go as a season goes sometimes, and this season went with starting pitching and a streaky lineup, neither of which showed up Thursday night in the Bronx.

As the sun all but vanished, the field flood lights took over, GW poised themselves for an eighth inning rally with a runner on second. The grit and gratitude on display, what Ritchie said the day prior after the team’s win rings loudly.

“A win’s a win. A loss is a loss. You expect to win every single time,” he said. “You want to sweep all the time. You expect to win the ring and the championship. Yeah, you want to go to the World Series. And I feel good all the time.”

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This post was written by Hatchet senior staff writer Josh Solomon.

BRONX, NY – In the thirty minutes between games staff members working the A-10 Championship at Fordham headed to the press box to grab some of the remaining now-cold hamburgers.

Overlooking the field, on a day of 90-degree summer heat and upsets between the base paths, one staff member turned to another between bites of his burger. “I would imagine Saint Louis would win, but with the way the day’s gone, I’m going to go with GW.”

The burger-eating-staffer was right to assume Saint Louis should win. The Billikens were the higher seeded team. The Billikens also just swept the Colonials a few days ago, outscoring them 28-10 in the series.

And GW had lost to VCU 5-1 this afternoon, showing few signs of lively bats. Down to the elimination side of the bracket, he Colonials were set to play the loser of the late afternoon game.

GW would draw the Billikens, after the team blew a 5–2 lead to Fordham in the eighth inning. Meanwhile GW had been back to its hotel room and changed uniforms to its steely grey pants (which some opposing teams have referred to as pajama pants).

The pajama pants proved to be potent for a Colonials bunch that lacked punch just hours earlier.

First, it took the form of lucky jab that landed for an early 1-0 lead. Then came a fortunate follow up of a two-out rally for two more runs. What followed was a knockout punch in the form of a three run home to the football bleachers in deep left center field by junior Kevin Mahala to give the Colonials a six run lead and eventually the game.

A bunch of runs, coupled with a clutch start by senior Jacob Williams, who twirled 5.2 innings, giving up one run on five hits and striking out six, helped to keep the season alive in a 6-1 win for GW.

“I’ve said this all the time, our guys are pretty resilient in bouncing back,” head coach Gregg Ritchie said.

Before the playoff started, following the sweep to Saint Louis, Ritchie said that the number one key to his team’s success in the tournament was pitching, primarily starting pitching. Earlier in the day, fellow senior Bobby LeWarne couldn’t keep it together in the fifth inning.

Wednesday night, Williams worked well through five innings, and only a hiccup in the sixth on a balk and a couple seeing-eye singles succumbed him to the end of his start. The Billikens were held without a hit until two outs in the fourth.

“I had a lot of adrenaline out there, knowing it could be the last opportunity to pitch in my career,” Williams said. “Also just trying to give everybody on the team, especially the other seniors a chance to just keep playing. None of us want the season to end, especially our careers.”

GW fed off the momentum from its starter.

Though the Colonials couldn’t capitalize on a one-out double by sophomore Robbie Metz in the first inning, they were able to come back in the second inning and score one.

Here’s where the luck came in: with runners on first and second and one out, the night’ designated hitter (with senior Matthieu Robért behind the dish), sophomore Brandon Chapman grounded into what should have been a routine double play to end the inning. The throw to first was low and skirted under the first baseman’s glove to allow one run to score.

In the fourth, Robért was hit by a pitch with two outs. Chapman, down in the count to his final strike, drove one over the center fielder’s head for a double to score his fellow catching mate. Junior Joey Bartosic followed up with an RBI single of his own.

And then the big inning came in what amounted to be a nine pitch at bat to Mahala. Foul ball after foul ball, finally Mahala straightened out one and to one of the deepest parts of the ballpark.

“I just kept telling myself you’re due, you’re due, because I’ve been struggling a little bit lately,” Mahala said.

He smoked a no-doubter, three-run home run into the bleachers in left center. That gave GW a six run lead and would be all for the day, plenty for a win against Saint Louis.

“We called ourselves the eliminators last year, and we’re trying to buy into that again this year,” Mahala said. “They had our number last weekend but we pride ourselves in our ability to dust ourselves off and that’s exactly what we did.”

GW will play Thursday at 5 p.m in a rematch with No. 2 VCU who lost to Davidson Thursday. Potential starters could be junior Shane Sweeney, or sophomores Brady Renner of Robbie Metz. 

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