A peculiar calmness permeated the Ringe Squash Courts last Saturday.
For a meeting between two of the top five women’s sides in the country, the contest between No. 2 Penn and No. 5 Stanford seemed to carry little of the tension that one would expect from such highly-ranked goliaths.
Win after win for the Red and Blue reinforced the composed atmosphere of the players, coaches and fans as the Quakers (5-1) rolled through their Cardinal opponents (7-2) with clinical precision.
After the first round of matches, Penn claimed a commanding 4-0 lead, having won all matches at the No. 2, 4, 6 and 8 positions with 3-0 scorelines.
At this point, it became clear that the Red and Blue hosts were a class above their West Coast visitors. While each individual game featured a hotly contested skirmish, the scoreboards almost always fell in favor of the Quakers as Stanford failed to stop the inevitable.
“Our goal today was to take care of business, and our ladies did that,” coach Jack Wyant said.
On Court 5, junior Grace van Arkel sealed the deal for Penn with another 3-0 shutout at the No. 9 position.
Freshmen Reeham Salah and Rowaida Attia along with senior Yan Xin Tan quickly followed suit with 3-0 wins of their own.
All attention then turned to senior Haidi Lala who found herself in an extremely close 2-2 battle with her Cardinal opponent, an outlier in what was mostly an afternoon of utter domination for the Red and Blue.
The Cairo, Egypt, native eventually went on to take the deciding game with an 11-4 score, giving Penn an emphatic 9-0 sweep to close out the day.
The result brought the team’s shutout tally to six in seven matches. The Quakers’ only other result being a 6-3 loss to No. 1 Harvard over the break.
Disregarding the loss to the Crimson, things have never been better for the Red and Blue as it finds itself as one of the strongest teams in the nation, a claim this weekend's result against Stanford reinforces.
“It’s an unusual year in that there is so much talent concentrated in those [top] three or four teams that even when we go up against another top ten team, the result might seem lopsided when it’s really not that far off,” Wyant said.
According to Wyant, the two other teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack alongside Penn and Harvard are perennial powerhouses Trinity and Princeton.
“Winning the Ivy title is out of reach I think in this stage,” Wyant said. “It’s certainly not in our control, but we have short-term goals.”
One of those short-term goals was defending its home courts against Stanford, but with Trinity and Princeton on slate for the next two weeks, those benchmarks will only get more difficult to attain.
“I just asked the seniors, and I was like, ‘I think the last time we beat Trinity was your freshman year,’ and they said, ‘That’s right,’” Wyant said. “It’s been a long while since we’ve got the better of them, so that’s our next goal.”
Win or lose against Trinity this coming weekend, the next goal will be getting a result against the Tigers the week after.
But Penn should know that the hegemony of New England and Mid-Atlantic squash will face serious challenges from its Stanford counterparts in the coming years.
The Cardinal recently added the top two ranked GU19 players in the nation to their most recent recruiting class, posing a threat to the eastern dominance.
Wyant and the Quakers, however, remain calm.
“It’s going to get tougher because they’ve got a lot of depth right now,” Wyant said. "But I am confident in who we have returning and who we have coming in, so I think we’ll be ok."
For now, the team will continue to work on those short-term goals, confronting each challenge as it comes and relishing the satisfaction that comes with being on top.
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