The finals court at the College Squash Association individuals tournament is a place that senior Kristen Lange has come to seem at home.
Yet through three consecutive trips to the finals match, the three-time All-American has yet to return to Penn with the ever-elusive national title.
After spending most of the year ranked as the second-best player in the country, Lange (9-4) heads to the individual championships this weekend in Hartford, Conn., as the tournament’s No. 2 seed.
In her freshman year, then-No. 7 Lange surprised the country when she swept the overall No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals before further proving herself with another sweep in the semis. She eventually fell in four games to the country’s top player.
“It was insane. I was so shocked,” Lange said. “Each time I would win a match, me and my mom would look at each other and wonder what in the world was happening.”
“It was so exciting. I will never forget the feeling,” she added.
Lange followed her freshman year shocker with a repeat climb to the title match in her sophomore season at the No. 2 seed. Once again, she swept her matches until falling in four games to the tournament’s top seed.
The next year, Lange entered the tournament having lost only one match all season. Her lone defeat came at the hands of Trinity’s Nour Bahgat, who would ultimately beat the Penn junior in four games in the controversial finals match.
“Last year, it was a solid road to the finals,” Lange said. But she falterned in the tournament’s final round in large part, she claims, because of her opponent’s playing style.
“The girl I played in the finals — it was a bit of circus, as the girl’s behavior was atrocious,” she said.
“It was one of those matches where I got mentally a little flustered,” she explained.
This year, the No. 2 Lange heads into the tournament with a new attitude, knowing that she will have her last shot at the gold.
The difference, however, is a much stronger field of competitors than in past years.
“I am definitely the underdog,” she said. “So I am just going in with the mindset that I need to do the best that I can do.”
“I am going to go in and try my hardest and not look at the end result,” she added. “I am going to take it one match as a time.”
With such a tough field of competition, Lange is preparing for an especially trying road to the top. Nevertheless, she thinks that the stiff competition could give her the edge she needs.
“It will keep me mentally strong the whole time. I am going to work hard from the get-go and try to improve in each match,” she said.
With that said, Lange will also be using this week to build up her mental toughness. She plans to approach the tournament as ferociously as possible and seize her final opportunity to prove she belongs on top.
“I will be like a hound dog and keep going after it,” she said. “I want to show everyone one last time what I can do … and hopefully I am going to play the best I have all year.”
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