All great things must come to an end. Penn Squash knows that all too well after this weekend.
After seeing both the men’s and women’s teams get off to undefeated starts, the Quakers finally fell this weekend to perennial power Harvard, both teams losing their matches, 6-3.
The men (7-1, 1-1 Ivy), ranked at No. 2 coming in to the weekend, were handed their first loss of the season by a recently-upset Harvard squad (2-1, 2-1 Ivy) that was ranked sixth coming in to the weekend after being knocked off by Dartmouth at the beginning of December. The women (5-1, 1-1) were also sitting at No. 2 before losing to the top-ranked Crimson.
All was not lost in the matches against Harvard, however. For the men, sophomore Anders Larson along with Karim Hussein and Jonathan Zeitels, both freshman, all won their matches, again showcasing the potential of the underclassmen on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, captain Yan Xin Tan extended her win streak through the season to six, while sophomore Marie Stephan swept her match and senior Haidi Lala won in her first contest of the season.
“The biggest challenge we had against Harvard was adapting to an away environment, someone else’s gym,” Penn coach Jack Wyant said. “We challenged our teams last night after the Harvard match to do a better job adapting to a new situation today against Dartmouth, and I feel like both the men and women were much improved from yesterday.”
The players certainly responded to that challenge with force against the Big Green with the women winning, 9-0, against the ninth-ranked team in the nation and the men grinding out a hard-fought 5-4 victory against a strong seventh-ranked squad. The women did not lose a single game against the Big Green (2-4, 0-3), while the men (5-2, 2-1) were buoyed by wins from their underclassmen.
Top sophomore Marwan Mahmoud made his first appearance of the season this weekend against Harvard, and though he did not win his match, the debut was certainly a step in the right direction for him.
“Marwan was showing some mono symptoms in the fall and is still working his way back, but even just having him back in the lineup is helpful,” Wyant said. “He almost won his match yesterday [against Harvard] after very little preparation. He gives us more strength and talent at the top of the ladder and increases our depth at the bottom, so we’re happy to be whole and happy to have him back.”
While the men have two weeks between matches until they have to play No. 1 Trinity. The women, on the other hand, must rest and recuperate quickly before a match on Jan. 16 against No. 5 Stanford, a team that upset top-ranked Trinity, 5-4, in November.
“We need to give both teams a couple of days of rest, they’re pretty banged up,” Wyant said.
“We trained extremely hard in the buildup to this weekend, and the players gave everything they had in both of these matches, so we’re going to give a couple of days of rest, but then we’re going to get right back into it on Wednesday for Stanford.”
Though is just one of what is sure to be plenty more challenging weekends this season, the Quakers certainly aren’t simply forgiving and forgetting their first loss of the season to the Crimson.
“Both teams are eager for a rematch. Harvard’s clearly a talented team and they were better than us yesterday, but we’re excited and eager for the opportunity to play them again,” Wyant said.
And though it’s unclear where the two teams will be in the rankings, it is abundantly clear that this season of Ivy squash has been blown wide open, and the Potter Cup and Howe Cup are anyone’s to win.
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