After defeating rival Princeton over a week ago, the Penn women’s squash team jumped two spots in the most recent Dunlop rankings, but it had yet to justify its new spot.
The Quakers took one step toward validating their No. 3 position this past Saturday, defeating No. 9 Williams without dropping a single game, 9-0.
Despite the jump in the rankings, the team isn’t changing its approach.
“We still view ourselves as the underdog and moving up in the rankings doesn’t really change that,” said junior co-captain Pia Trikha, who won her match 3-0 (11-3, 11-2, 11-1) in the third slot on the ladder. “There’s still two teams in front of us that we’re trying to beat.”
Those two teams — Harvard and Yale — both lie ahead on the Quakers’ schedule. But on Saturday, their sole focus was beating the Ephs.
“What I told them before the match was that it was important to approach the Williams team the same way that you did against Princeton last week,” coach Jack Wyant said.
The Quakers took his words to heart and avoided the letdown that could have come from a mental lapse.
Each of the nine matches ended in a 3-0 win for Penn.
While every performance was impressive, some were especially notable. Junior co-captain and No. 1 Nabilla Ariffin only dropped eight points in three sets. However, sophomore Chloe Blacker was most dominant, dropping just four points throughout her No. 9 matchup.
While this contest was not as competitive as the victory over Princeton, it was still valuable experience for the Quakers.
“You can still work on things,” said Trikha, and “work on giving respect to your opponents and playing as hard as you can.”
Penn will have plenty of time to improve in the next few weeks.
After two practices during reading days, the team will take finals and head home. But even that won’t be a full break for the Quakers.
“It will be nice to go home for a couple weeks, but it’s not like it’s really a break because we’re all going to be training over that time period,” said junior Stephanie Vogel.
The team returns to campus on January 3rd for two-a-days. Practices during the first semester have focused largely on fitness and conditioning, and it has paid dividends.
Wyant called the women’s team’s fitness level “very high” before talking about what was next for the Quakers.
“The second semester is more focused on match play and maintaining sharpness. To steal a swimming term, we try to taper a little bit more,” Wyant said.
Improvement will be vital, as the Quakers have a brutal stretch of matches coming after the break. The team will visit national No. 1, Harvard, on Jan. 14, and then head north to face eighth-ranked Dartmouth the following day. A home match against Franklin and Marshall on January 19 will be the team’s third match in six days.
Vogel recognizes the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s just going to be a battle, a battle week.”