When it comes to rankings, the Quakers are causing quite a racket.
No. 7 Penn men’s squash upset the No. 4 Rochester team on Ringe Courts Saturday with a 6-3 final match score. Rankings, statistics and records became nonexistent once the players took the courts, as nine new battles waged on.
Penn took the early lead when freshman Karim Hussein took down the Yellowjackets’ Ryosei Kobayashi in straight games at the second seed. However, the visitors evened the tally when Neil Cordell overtook Penn sophomore Derek Hsue in three sets.
Rochester's Lawrence Kuhn gave the team a slight edge beating James Watson 3-2. However, Penn freshman Jonathan Zeitels struck back by coming away 3-2 over Ben Pitfield, bringing things level to two apiece.
The Red and Blue rallied together and retook the lead with two monumental 3-0 victories coming from junior B.G. Lemmon and sophomore Hayes Murphy. Rochester junior Mario Yanez gave the Yellowjackets a win, defeating Anders Larson at the top spot in four games. 6-11, 11-8, 11-7 and 11-3
With the first team to five matches claiming the day, Penn was now up 4-3 and could nearly taste victory amidst the sweat and adrenaline. As all storybook endings must play out, both of the final two matches were destined to go into five games.
On court four, the Quakers’ freshman Max Reed was in a deadlock with opponent, having taken the first game at 11-4 before dropping the next two at 9-11 to the Yellowjackets’ fifth seed Micky Bertocchi. Reed fought back with 11-3 to force a decisive game five. With the crowd swelling around glass and cheers coming down from the upper tiers, Reed grinded out an enormous 11-6 victory, granting Penn its fifth match won and a W for the day.
As he dropped his racket and exited the court, Reed could not even get as far as his water bottle before the mob of Red and Blue carried their hero around Ringe to shouts of triumph.
Describing the chaos after the match, Reed could only sum it up as “[p]retty sweet. So awesome. Just surreal to be honest.”
Although their fate had been determined, senior Tyler Odell topped Aria Fazelimanesh, tallying another win for Penn and underscoring a dominant all-around performance.
Coach Jack Wyant explained the significance of the victory for his squad, especially over such a well-respected powerhouse as Rochester.
“It’s very difficult for me to put into words the distance between 15 and five, and the distance between that three, four, and five level. We’re not at the top one or two level yet, I don’t think, maybe we are, but we thought maybe we could achieve top five this year,” Wyant said.
“To see the guys perform this well under the pressure of knowing we're not going to get too many chances against the top five teams before break was really special.”
Wyant believes that aside from the pure talent of the team, which he considers to be unrivaled in his tenure at Penn, the group’s determination plays a big part in their success.
“They show up early, they do their video study, they have their extra sessions with the coaches, mostly [assistant coaches] Gilly [Lane] and Rickie [Dodd], and their hard work was rewarded today. It was a really special day.”
Having won the pivotal match for Penn, Reed lends much of the credit for his own success to his support staff behind him and on the other courts.
“All my coaches and teammates have just given me a ton of confidence, and the captains especially,” Reed said. “Everyone has so much confidence in each other it’s hard not to have confidence in yourself while you’re out there.”
Murphy shed some light on what this historic victory means for the program moving forward with so much to gain in the weeks ahead.
“We can play with the big boys. I think everyone’s confidence is through the roof, and I think that’s exactly how we need to play to beat these top teams,” Murphy said. “I think that before this match we would kind of sneak up on teams. But now, everyone knows who we are so we have to start playing like a top team.”
With third-ranked Saint Lawrence as well as Williams College coming to Philadelphia to square off tomorrow, the celebrations might have to be short-lived.
“These sorts of moments are hard to come by,” Wyant said. “But having said that, they don’t have a lot of time to recover, and they recognize that tomorrow represents another great opportunity. So we have to recover, get a good night’s sleep, get hydrated and bring the same mindset to tomorrow’s match.”
Commenting on the fluctuations that this result will wreak on the rankings Wyant added, “That was our goal.”
So, with the wind fully in their sails, the Quakers now might truly set their sights on a top-five national finish.
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