For most, Jan. 19 was an ordinary Thursday. For the Penn’s men’s squash team, however, it held so much promise since the season began in November.
And it ended in sheer disappointment.
Franklin & Marshall defeated the Quakers at Ringe Courts, 5-4, in an over three-hour long slugfest.
The second half of Penn’s roster again showed its ability to carry the team. The No. 6, 8 and 9 players (Derek Chilvers, Michael Mutscheller and Jack Maine) delivered three of Penn’s four victories.
There’s a lot of pressure for Penn’s six to nine spots to perform, as the Quakers have been getting many of their wins from the bottom of the ladder.
Co-captain and No. 1 Thomas Mattsson added the fourth win for Penn.
Wyant described Mattsson’s win as the “best of his career.”
Chilvers pulled out a tense five-game match — the fifth game went to a tiebreaker — to put Penn up, 3-2. No. 7 sophomore Justin Ang dropped a match that also went the distance.
“The match that we really needed was the No. 7 match,” coach Jack Wyant said. “That one hurt us a lot.”
Sophomore John Dudzik, after fighting off three match points, looked poised to force a fifth game, but he lost three straight points and finally conceded his last game in a back-and-forth tiebreaker, as the Diplomats sealed their second-straight win against the Quakers.
Mattsson won his first two games but was forced to finish it out in a close fifth game.
Everyone watching the match was on edge. Mattsson seemed to have never-ending points; Dudzik’s final game left each side ranting after each point in a game that seemed as if it would never end.
While squash generally has a fair amount of controversy, due to a relatively large amount of subjective calls compared to other sports, each match seemed to have more than its own fair share of controversy. Dudzik broke a racket after his opponent received what he thought to be an unwarranted let, before he dropped the last three points.
The match was a must-win for the Quakers. As Chilvers and Mattsson put it, this was “the biggest match of the season.”
At stake was essentially a spot in the year-end A division tournament, which invites the top eight teams.
The Diplomats (5-4) entered the match ranked eighth in the nation. Penn (3-4, 0-3 Ivy) is No. 9.
“The team was really hyped about [the match],” Chilvers noted.
But as the teams cleared the courts and headed to the locker rooms, a very somber sentiment lingered.
It’s not that the Quakers can’t make it to the year-end tournament, but to do so, they would have to pull off a much more substantial argument. Their best chance would likely be their final match of the season at No. 6 Cornell.
But Penn already seems to have readjusted its goals for this season.
“We’re probably going to go into the B-division for nationals,” Mutscheller noted. “Our hope is to win that.”
Wyant echoed that by saying Penn could improve on it’s performance last year, in which the Quakers finished No. 10, by retaining their No. 9 ranking. To do so would require exactly what Mutscheller mentioned: winning the B-division.
Penn definitely had the skill to win the B-division coming into the season, and it has only improved since then. The season is not lost, but this one will hurt for a while.