With the calendar barreling towards the College Squash Association National Championships, Penn squash’s two squads find themselves heading in opposite directions.
The final Ivy weekend of the season for the Quakers saw the women’s team steamroll their New York opponents while the men’s squad dropped two matches in heart-breaking fashion.
Friday night’s matchup against Columbia was especially important, as it served as senior night for both squads. For seniors Haidi Lala, Camille Lanier and Yan Xin Tan, the night was emotional as all three walked away from Ringe Courts victorious for the final time.
“It’s all gone by so fast so it’s a little hard to grasp that,” Lala added. “I feel like I’ve given everything to the best team in college squash.”
No. 8 Cornell (9-7, 2-5 Ivy) and No. 7 Columbia (6-6, 3-4) proved no match this weekend as the Red and Blue (12-1, 6-1)left no doubt that they are ready to take on the nation’s elite teams at Nationals. Finishing out their final regular season with three straight 9-0 victories, the women are heading into the Howe Cup with a full head of steam.
“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” coach Jack Wyant said. “We’re gonna get a little bit of rest and then train really hard.”
Standing in the way of Penn’s first national championship since the 2000-01 season will be the one opponent who bested the Quakers in the regular season. A reversal of their disappointing 6-3 defeat in January to the reigning Ivy champion, Harvard, will be crucial to clinching the second national title in school history.
It was a weekend to forget for the men’s team as the parity they had utilized to catapult up the rankings early in the season finally turned against them. With back-to-back upsets at the hands of No. 8 Columbia (7-5, 5-2) and No. 12 Cornell (6-8, 3-4), the Quakers find themselves anxiously watching to see whether or not they will hang on to their top-eight ranking needed for a Potter Cup berth.
2016 has not been kind to the Red and Blue (9-5, 3-4). Since their 5-4 and 6-3 triumphs over Rochester and Saint Lawrence respectively in the fall, they have gone 1-3 in similar matches since the calendar flipped.
“We have to figure out ways to stop making same mistakes,” Wyant said. “We’ve fallen into some bad habits and we need to break them.”
Chalk it up to the plethora of underclassmen on the ladder, or even the fatigue of the season, but the Red and Blue have some serious problems to fix if they hope to contend in the Potter Cup draw.
“We just can’t seem to execute in those pressure moments,” Wyant added. “Instead of playing conservative squash, we’re getting impatient and forcing things.”
Despite the losses for the seniors on the men’s side, the journey they’ve been through from their freshman to senior seasons was still something to cherish.
“My journey has been phenomenal,” senior co-captain Liam Quinn said. “It’s been about more than one win or one loss, and [the seniors] are thrilled to be given the opportunity to lead the team this year.”
“It’s great that here we are here in the final weekend of their senior season with a top five ranking,” Wyant said. “It’s a testament to the belief they’ve had in the team and the program throughout their career.”
Penn men’s squash is in desperate need of a throwback, as the giant killers of November have regressed to some of the same issues that hurt the team last season. Assuming the Quakers are able to hold onto their top eight ranking, they will certainly have to find a way to recapture the mojo from the beginning of the season.
And, as they say, it takes three losses to create a streak, but it just takes one win to snap it.
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