In the most trying of moments, the Penn women’s squash team kept its cool.
On Saturday, the Quakers narrowly defeated a No. 4 Trinity squad ranked just one place above them, 6-3, in a match that featured plenty of drama.
The contest hinged on the performances of two freshmen for Penn (7-1).
The first, Haidi Lala, unbeaten so far this season and playing in the No. 4 position, cruised through her match, dropping only four points on the way to victory.
The other, Camille Lanier at No. 8, won a match that went down to the wire. Trailing 9-7 in the fifth and final game, she somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
For coach Jack Wyant, the defeat of highly touted Trinity (9-1) was a question of guts and determination.
“Camille put in a heroic effort. I thought her tactics were poor, but her heart was unbelievable,” Wyant said. “She carried us; that was the decider, so Camille was the real hero today.”
Despite not being at her best, Lanier pulled through, her training under Wyant coming through when she needed it most.
“With Jack’s coaching skills, he has told us that we might not be the most talented, but we are the fittest.” Lanier said. “You’re going to have your good and bad days. And today I had to use my fitness and my mental strength to fight it through to the end.”
The team is in good shape as it prepares for the challenges ahead. The Quakers have a potent mix of youth and experience, and, according to Lala, have a real chance of winning the national championship.
“Winning is incredible as it means [that] we are just … one step closer to the national title holders,” Lala said. “This year is our year and we want to prove that to everyone, prove it to ourselves and just show everyone that we deserve what we’ve been fighting for.”
Seniors Nabilla Ariffin and Rachel Goh, respectively Nos. 1 and 3 on the ladder, lost, a sign that in some matches could have meant disaster.
However, the rest of the team stayed together, with Lanier and Lala coming up with big wins.
In the end, Wyant’s tactics paid off.
“You’ve got to have a good game plan and you have to be able to execute it better than your opponent,” he said.
While Trinity may have more talent than the Red and the Blue, on this particular night, the Quakers’ tactics proved to be the difference.
Being able to pull out a win even on a poor night will prove valuable for Penn as it looks forward to its upcoming showdown with Princeton, the team now ranked No. 1 in the country after pulling off a shocking defeat of Harvard last Sunday.
“We have a week and a half before Princeton,” Wyant said. “So we are going to work our tails off between now and then.”