There was no easing into the second semester for the Penn women’s squash team, who began the spring with a bang against two top-tier opponents on its annual New England road trip.
After falling to No. 1 Harvard, 7-2, Saturday in Cambridge, the No. 3 Quakers (3-1, 2-1 Ivy) headed north to Hanover, N.H., where they swept No. 8 Dartmouth, 9-0, Sunday.
“I felt like Sunday was a solid performance,” coach Jack Wyant said, “but Saturday I felt like we could have done a little bit better. I’m hopeful that if we get another chance against Harvard we’ll have more success. I’m not guaranteeing a victory, but we need to do better the next time we play them.”
Senior captain Nabilla Ariffin reflected upon the match against the Crimson a little differently.
“We just need a little bit more confidence and belief that we can do it,” she stressed.
Thursday, Penn faces another challenge when No. 17 Franklin & Marshall visits the Ringe Courts for a midweek tilt. The Diplomats (2-6), who also have a bout Wednesday against St. Lawrence, will be fighting their fatigue to move into the top 16, which would qualify them for them for the B-Division bracket of the Collegiate Squash Association Championships.
Freshman Leslie Gill noted how tough it is to play three high-level matches in such a short period as six days.
“I don’t think I played a stretch like this in high school and if I did, it definitely wasn’t as tough,” she said. “These were matches that counted a lot in our season.”
While Franklin & Marshall will surely come ready to play, Wyant pointed out that playing a lower-ranked team — at least in comparison to the Crimson and Big Green — is a nice way to close out this hectic week.
While his team’s only defeat has come at the hands of the top team in the nation, he still hopes to see improvement from the squad. He noted that the team has been developing a more intense style of play.
“The thing that we’re working on is trying to apply more pressure on our opponents by taking the ball earlier,” he explained. “It’s a high-percentage way to tire your opponent out.”
Despite the Red and Blue’s success thus far, both Wyant and the players agree that one key ingredient is still missing.
“As a team we’re very hardworking girls,” said Ariffin. “With more matches to come, [our] confidence will definitely go up.”
Wyant echoed her sentiment. “We didn’t lose the Harvard match because of fitness … it had a little bit more to do with self-belief.”
Thursday at 7 p.m., the Quakers will continue to build that confidence and belief as they defend their home courts.