This year, both Penn squash teams will look to accomplish some big things, but one squad in particular will look to add some big rings.
Last season proved to be a watershed moment for Penn squash, as the men captured their first Potter Cup win in six years while the women secured their first Ivy league championship since the 2007-08 season.
Youth on the men’s side will be tantamount to the Quakers moving up in the rankings this season. The five freshmen who occupied the ladder last season, led by sophomore and second team All-American Marwan Mahmoud, were responsible for 52 of the 89 individual victories for the Red and Blue last year.
The rapid ascent of the men’s side over the past two years has had an impact on both squads. Having both teams ranked in the top 10 has provided continuity between the team’s goals.
“They motivate the girls to work just as hard as them,” women’s senior captain Yan Xin Tan said. “We’re more supportive of each other since we’re working towards the same goals.”
Sitting at No. 7 in the College Squash Association preseason rankings, the men’s team will be provided with plenty of chances to pull off upsets as they will play all six teams ranked ahead of them.
The Quakers must also be wary of the nine teams ranked below them who will be gunning for upsets when they meet Penn this season.
“The good thing about finishing seventh is that there are six teams above us,” Wyant said of the Quakers’ motivations. “However there are six teams below as well that we’ll have to show up for.”
But the men aren’t the only ones who will have to deal with adjusted motivations this year.
The women’s squad may have won the Ivy League this year, but it isn’t about to rest on its laurels. This year, the team has its sights set on its first Howe Cup championship — the de facto national championship — since the 2000-01 season.
“There isn’t much room to grow for the women’s team since they’ve had so much success,” Wyant said. “The ladies are really excited to improve on last year’s result.”
Standing in the way, as usual, will be perennial Howe Cup finals stalwarts, No. 1 Harvard and No. 2 Trinity, who have met to decide the championship in three straight seasons.
Led by a trio of All-Americans at the top of the ladder, the Red and Blue will look to reach the Howe Cup final for the first time since the 2009-10 season. And heading into the season, the women are spending more time focusing on team building and recovery rather than on upcoming opponents.
“Last year we were thinking about the outcome too much,” Tan added. “We’re focusing more on team bonding and making sure everyone’s been putting in their best effort.”
Taking down the top two teams in the nation will take a total team effort, so making sure that everyone makes it to the January matchup in New England will be an important goal.
“I think we have nine or 10 really good players,” Tan said. “Our main goal is to stay healthy all season.”
Close games provided plenty of trouble for both Penn teams as they combined for an abysmal 1-7 record in 5-4 matches. While most would point to the losses as weak points, Wyant sees positives.
“I see it as progress,” Wyant said. “You don’t really have moral victories in other sports, but you can have them in squash.”
With the matches against Harvard and Trinity already shaping up to be dogfights, if the Quakers are able to find themselves on the favorable end of a 5-4 score, they’ll be adding another big ring to their collection.
What a time to be alive.
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