After nearly 40 years of heartbreak at the hands of Princeton, the Quakers were finally able to snap the streak.
Up against coach Jack Wyant’s alma mater, Penn men’s squash seemed to want it more en route to its 7-2 upset of the Tigers, ending a 45-match losing streak against the rival school that dated back to 1974.
“It ain’t pretty what’s happened over the years between our two schools,” Wyant said. “I think this win signifies that we’re coming.”
Freshman Rahil Fazelbhoy got the No. 10 Quakers (6-2, 2-1 Ivy) moving with a three-set sweep before the two most exciting individual matchups of the night took place.
After dropping the first two games to Ben Leizman, Jack Maine dug deep and forced a decisive fifth game that he easily won, 11-5.
What was Maine’s key to victory? The answer was a simple one.
“Using my teammate’s enthusiasm off the court and listening to my coaches in between games,” he said.
Just two courts over, freshman George Lemmon found himself in another tight battle, as he and Sam Ezratty of the No. 7 Tigers (3-4,1-2) battled to another five-game match that energized the mixed crowd of Penn and Princeton fans. The game went back and forth, but luck was on the Quakers’ side as Lemmon won the deciding game in a 17-15 gut-check.
After winning two clutch Ivy matches — the Quakers topped Dartmouth on Jan. 11 — Lemmon gave credit to the team’s work off the court as the primary reason for Penn squash’s newfound winning ways.
“The training we have done as a team is something we have never done before,” he said.
Augie Frank made quick work of his opponent at No. 3 to capture his first Ivy victory of the season and set up freshman Benton Turner to capture the clinching victory of the match.
The upset was sealed with Turner’s four set victory at the No. 9 position, which gave the Quakers an extra-sweet 12th victory in the rivalry.
“It means everything,” Wyant said. “This is the biggest win we’ve had.”
After a 1-6 Ivy finish that put them at the bottom of the standings last year, Penn has shocked the Ivy League with two quality wins early in the season.
“I think we’re impressing people every day,” Maine said. “We didn’t know we could beat Princeton that badly.”
The Quakers continued to protect their home court with their fourth consecutive victory at Ringe Squash Courts — and they have not given up more than two individual wins to an opposing squad in those four matches.
Ringe has also become a place where rankings can be thrown out the window, as two of Penn’s three wins over higher-ranked teams have come at home.
“We don’t leave anything on the court,” Maine said. “This is a big confidence builder for our team.”
Next up for Penn is a Saturday home date with No. 3 Yale, assistant coach Richard Dodd’s alma mater.
Perhaps another upset is in order.