squash

Freshman Karim Hussein, who hails from Cairo, Egypt, is one of the many international players on the men's squash team that has helped give the Quakers an undefeated start to 2015.

Photo: Ananya Chandra / The Daily Pennsylvanian

We’re in uncharted territory.

With back-to-back wins over top-five teams from Penn men’s squash along with another perfect start to the season on the women’s side, associate head coach Gilly Lane finds himself as a leader of one of the most successful teams in program history.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Lane said. “I don’t know if there has been a weekend like this ever in college squash, and we feel very fortunate to lead both squads.”

Facing a month-long hiatus before resuming play, both teams will try to hold onto the magic that propelled them to this torrid start. On the heels of a banner weekend at Ringe Courts — where the men felled Nos. 3 and 4 St. Lawrence and Rochester last weekend — the Quakers find themselves in a position they’ve never truly seen themselves before: the team to beat in the Ancient Eight.

Dartmouth, a team that pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season with their win over Harvard, await the Red and Blue along with the Crimson after the break and will be aiming to spoil Penn’s quest for perfection. The updated rankings haven’t been released yet, but the Red and Blue will likely be ranked higher than both of their opening Ivy opponents for the first time ever.

However, Lane is hesitant to jump into the spotlight.

“I think we still have the mentality of the underdog,” the 2007 Penn grad said. “We haven’t been top dog in the Ivy League before.”

If the men want to sustain their early season success, they would be wise to look to their female counterparts, who have similarly begun their Ivy title defense with a perfect record.

The second-ranked women’s squad has avoided falling prey to the upsets that have plagued college squash this year. However, on Jan. 9 they will try to create their own chaos by beating Harvard, the defending national champions, for the second consecutive year.

“It’s the matchup in women’s squash everyone is looking forward to,” Lane added. “This is probably the most competitive and most talented women’s squash match top-to-bottom in history.”

Last year’s 5-4 thriller over the Crimson in Philadelphia ended with the team rushing the court to celebrate with then-sophomore Michelle Wong, who capped off the match for the Red and Blue. In what amounts to a de facto Ivy League championship game, the Quakers will try to replicate the madness and keep the Ivy trophy in the 215 for another year.

For both the men and women, the Collegiate Squash Association rankings have been in shambles since the first preseason poll, as a slew of upsets have turned college squash upside down. Parity has reigned supreme as the dominance enjoyed perennial favorites in previous years has eroded.

“You never used to see this,” Lane said. “It’s a great time to be a college squash player because it puts every team on notice.”

The Ivy League has been put on alert. Penn squash has established itself as a national power on both sides, and if the recent upsets are harbingers of things to come, the trophy case at Ringe just might have to make way for some more hardware.

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