“Our days of finishing seventh in the Ivies are over.”
Penn squash coach Jack Wyant made that bold statement to me when I spoke to him on the team’s first day of practice. At the time, I wasn’t sure what to think of it, but for some reason it stuck with me.
After last season’s 5-12 disaster, there was plenty of reason for skepticism about the men’s squash team’s prospects. With only three upperclassmen on the ladder along with six underclassmen — including three sophomores playing in the top third — there were questions about the team’s inexperience.
The Quakers didn’t take long to put their money where their mouth was. Right off the bat, the team showed just how much it had improved with dominating wins over Williams and George Washington, two teams it lost to a year ago.
Going into winter break with a perfect 3-0 record, there was some cause for optimism about this season’s success before the real test came during the Ivy slate.
A win over Dartmouth on Jan. 11 was the first testament to how far this team had come. The 5-4 victory convinced Penn’s coaches that their team was on the road to glory.
“We knew we had turned the corner there,” Wyant said.
Just a few short weeks later, Penn squash made its biggest statement of the season. Up against Princeton, a team they hadn’t beaten in 40 years, the Quakers manhandled the Tigers in a 7-2 win just days before the 125th anniversary of the Penn squash program.
“This is the biggest win we’ve had,” Wyant said at the time.
The win against Princeton put the Red and Blue in a situation few expected this year. The Quakers find themselves in contention for the Potter Cup this upcoming weekend, a competitive division of the CSA Team Championships that is reserved for the top eight teams in the entire country.
With a young nucleus of talent, Penn squash is now set up to continue its run of success and make itself a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Despite the success, Penn’s improved record and upset wins, the team has not yet proved that it has achieved a complete turnaround. But on the final Ivy weekend of the season, Penn beat Columbia, 5-4, showing without a doubt that the Red and Blue had turned the corner.
“We’ve all come together,” Wyant said. “This has been a complete and total turnaround.”
With the win against Columbia, no one can make excuses that Princeton was short-handed or that the Quakers’ success this season was a fluke. Penn squash has found its weaknesses and addressed them sufficiently.
Penn may find itself counted among the best eight squash teams in the country for the first time in five years. However, the Quakers still have a lot to change if they want to continue trending upwards.
The top of the ladder remains an ongoing problem. The top two positions managed only two wins the entire season combined. Additionally, the young players at the top of the ladder must continue to improve in order to start contributing more wins to Penn’s squad.
Penn men’s squash may not be ready to take away a win at the Potter Cup this weekend, but if the team continues on its upward trajectory, the Cup looks well within its sights in the near future.
_COREY HENRY is an Engineering freshman from Coral Springs, Fla. and is a staff writer for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@thedp. com_
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