Sophomore Nabilla Ariffin and her six classmates on the women’s squash team are beginning to step into new roles as Penn’s veteran leaders.

The women’s squash team returned to practice Monday with a sobering taste of reality: the team portion of the season is over.

Penn’s season ended abruptly, with a disappointing loss to Princeton in the first round of the Howe Cup. Now, all that stands between the players and the offseason is the March 4-6 Individual Championships.

And when that offseason arrives, the Quakers will have to spend much of the time figuring out how to narrow the gap between themselves and the top two teams in the nation, Harvard and Yale.

Going into last weekend’s Howe Cup, the Red and Blue had high expectations, as they had played tight matches against both teams in the regular season.

In the course of two hours on Friday afternoon, though, all those hopes were deflated.

“Harvard and Yale both have really complete lineups, from number one to number nine,” coach Jack Wyant said.

In addition to their depth, both teams have experience. Harvard carries four seniors and three juniors, while Yale has three and five, respectively. Penn’s only upperclassman is senior captain Annie Madeira.

Despite this discrepancy, “I think we’re not that far off,” Wyant said.

Sophomore Nabilla Ariffin echoed her coach.

“I think confidence-wise we’re on their levels,” she said.

“In the game, we just have to execute what we’ve trained for,” she added.

The ability to execute will come with experience, which Penn didn’t have much of going into this season.

“We definitely had some good wins, which made the freshmen believe that we can do well against good teams,” Ariffin said.

Going into next year, the team will undergo a shift.

“We’re going to go from being a young team to a team with a good amount of experience,” Wyant said.

In addition to learning from mistakes, Ariffin and her six fellow sophomores will have to adjust to their new roles as leaders, a task that will be easier thanks to Madeira’s guidance.

“I feel like somehow, every day, we learned more from her,” Ariffin said. “Next year, we won’t have anyone to look up to, so we’ll have to step up.”

Even though the Quakers won’t know if they’ve reached the level of Harvard or Yale until next season, the question of whether Penn will be up for the test is much clearer.

“I think we’re ready,” Ariffin said.

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