The Penn men’s squash team can be thankful that style points don’t appear on the scoreboard.
They may have beaten No. 15 Navy on Wednesday night for the 12th-consecutive time, but they did so in nail-biting fashion. The Quakers came back from a 4-1 deficit to triumph, 5-4, in Annapolis.
“Tactically Navy was better than we were, but we really gutted it out,” coach Jack Wyant said. “There’s a book by Brad Gilbert called Winning Ugly, and that was something that I think we did tonight.”
The No. 9 Quakers (2-1, 0-1 Ivy) needed a strong performance after getting swept 9-0 by No. 3 Princeton last Saturday, but they didn’t get it right away.
Trailing 4-1 in the overall match, sophomore Dan Judd turned things around for Penn by eking out an hour-long, five-game victory. Then the Red and Blue got the final three wins that they needed to complete the comeback.
“It wasn’t so much that we lost those first four matches quickly in succession, as how we lost them,” Wyant said. “We were on and off in the blink of an eye, and then Dan kind of stemmed the tide with that really long grinding match, and from there, we had some success.”
The Quakers hadn’t lost to the Midshipmen (12-4) since 2001 and shut out Navy last season, facts not lost on junior Dan Greenberg, who won the match that clinched the overall win for Penn.
“When I got on court, I didn’t know mine was going to be the deciding match,” Greenberg said. “But around the third or fourth game, there were a lot of people around the court cheering, so I figured it was the last match going.“I had to pull through. We hadn’t lost to Navy in I don’t know how long, so we didn’t want to start now.”
At this point in the season, the young Quakers will take a win any way they can get it. With just three upperclassmen in his lineup, Wyant hopes that Judd’s tough win at Navy will become a microcosm for the team’s season as it settles in together.
“[Winning ugly] is a high compliment,” he said. “I think in the past as a team we’ve been trying to play perfectly rather than gutting out, playing in a steady manner and to let our opponents make the mistakes.”
It remains to be seen whether Penn can continue to gut out a good game when necessary. But at the very least, Quaker senior captain Trevor McGuinness will now be able to talk up a good game whenever he wants with his brother Andrew McGuinness, a freshman on the Navy squash team.
“I think Trevor now does have bragging rights over his little brother,” Greenberg said.