A year ago, a No. 3 Trinity women’s squash team defeated the No. 5 Penn team, 6-3, on the Quakers’ own Ringe Courts.
Twelve months later, the setting and rankings have been reversed, as No. 3 Penn (4-1) will face No. 5 Trinity (9-2) on Sunday in Hartford, Conn. While the Quakers now have the upper hand in the national rankings, the Red and Blue are not overlooking the young-but-talented Bantams.
“We aren’t necessarily going in with an underdog mentality, but we are very much aware that they’re going to be a tough team to beat,” junior Rachael Goh said.
The only common opponent for the two teams this year has been No. 1 Harvard, against whom the Quakers and Bantams both lost, 7-2 and 8-1, respectively. In both contests, decisive matches going four or five games went the Crimson’s way.
The greatest difference between last year’s Penn and Trinity teams is that the Quakers have retained seven of its starters, including four All-Americans in Goh, Pia Trikha, Nabilla Ariffin and Yarden Odinak.
Meanwhile, Trinity has added four new players to its starting lineup, making for a decidedly different and younger squad than the one the Quakers lost to last season. Again, however, the Red and Blue are not underestimating the abilities of a team that has only lost to No. 1 Harvard and No. 2 Yale.
“I know that they’ve got a lot of talented players,” coach Jack Wyant said. “We know that Sunday will be a very competitive match.”
In preparation for the match, Penn has maintained its high fitness level through drills like “pressure sessions,” where one player feeds shots to a second player who is “under pressure” and has to cover the court and return the ball to the feeder. The goal of the drill is to wear out the player under pressure — and the results of the drill speak to its effectiveness.
“I’m staggering off the court [after the drill],” Goh said.
In the context of the season, Sunday’s match with Trinity is yet another opportunity for Penn to compete with a top-10 squad and preserve its No. 3 ranking, which will ultimately translate to a seed in the Howe Cup tournament at the season’s end.
Furthermore, the matchup with the Bantams may be a preview for a future Howe Cup elimination match, as the Quakers have met Trinity in three of the last four tournaments.
But regardless of the road ahead, for now the Red and Blue want to focus solely on the upcoming game.
“Could we end up playing in the Howe Cup final on that Sunday? Absolutely, we could,” Wyant said. “But there’s a lot of ground to cover between now and then.”