Winning is an attitude. This weekend, Penn squash will certainly have a big opportunity to prove that once again.
After gutting out a 5-4 victory over Drexel last Tuesday in which the bottom of the ladder had to come up clutch, the No. 7 men’s team will go into a very busy weekend featuring two of the toughest teams on its entire schedule in No. 3 St. Lawrence and No. 4 Rochester. The Quakers (3-0) will also take on No. 15 Williams a mere three hours after facing Rochester on Sunday.
The matches against St. Lawrence and Rochester surely mark the greatest test of this young season for the Red and Blue, representing their first matchups against teams with higher rankings, and Penn will need the top of the ladder to step up after getting just one win from its top five players against city rival Drexel.
“We feel confident about our lineup all the way through,” coach Jack Wyant said. “The matches in the top three positions didn’t go our way last weekend, but we know we have the ability to be successful there. The competition this weekend is going to be incredibly tough, and we know that.”
But the Quakers’ talented group of underclassmen should inspire confidence in the team’s ability to come away with good results against two squads that are historically very strong in the Saints and the Yellow Jackets.
“We’re still a very young team,” Wyant added. “Seven of our top nine are underclassmen, and we’re missing sophomore Marwan [Mahmoud] who would certainly be in that mix, so we’re a young team but we’re ready for a good test this weekend.”
The injury to Mahmoud is a big blow to the Quakers. As a freshman last year, he competed at the No. 1 spot on the ladder in every match, accumulating an impressive 15-6 record while helping Penn reach the Potter Cup as the seven seed, finishing 11th in the College Squash Association Individual Rankings.
The story of the weekend is bit different on the women’s side this weekend, however. Coming into the weekend ranked third, Penn (2-0) will face two teams that are ranked outside of the top 10, with No. 21 St. Lawrence on Saturday and No. 12 Williams on Sunday. So, this weekend could see some new faces in the lineup for the women who perhaps might not get in otherwise.
But after this weekend, both teams will be going in to a month-long break filled with finals and holidays, only to come right out of it to travel to Cambridge for matches against Harvard, which is ranked second on the men’s side and first on the women’s. Thus, this weekend is the beginning of a crucial month of preparation for a tough January for the Quakers, and getting good results for both teams will be crucial to starting the month off right.
“Right now we are really focused on having good practices,” women’s senior captain Yan Xin Tan said. “There’s a lot going on right now with exams and everything, so we’re just focusing on two hours a day, having solid practices, going through this weekend just like any other weekend and trying to have optional practices during breaks so that we can prepare for the month ahead.”
While on the surface this weekend represents two different matchups for Penn squash, one thing each team has in common is that good results are key going into a break before for a busy and challenging January.
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