Runa Reta. Katie Patrick. Lissa Hunsicker.
Come Sunday, senior squash co-captain Yan Xin Tan hopes to add her name to the list above as just the fourth Richey Award winner in Penn’s history.
The award, given out by the College Squash Association, “is given annually to the women’s college squash player who best exemplifies the ideals of squash in her love of and devotion to the game, her strong sense of fairness, and her excellence of play and leadership.”
The award was created in 1984 and has been given to some of the most talented women to ever compete on the collegiate level. Last year’s winner, Amanda Sobhy of Harvard, now occupies the No. 8 slot in the latest world squash rankings.
And now, one of Penn’s very own is a finalist for the honor.
“I always thought it was cool to be nominated so it was exciting news,” Tan said. “It’s a huge confidence boost going into nationals.”
As both the top men’s and women’s squash programs begin the chase for a national championship, the teams will also be meeting to vote on the eventual winner of the Richey Award. Both players and coaches will vote.
If the words of her fellow players and coaches are any indication, Tan is a favorite for the award.
“Off court, Xinny maintains friendships with both teammates and opponents, always greeting them with a smile,” head coach Jack Wyant said. “On court, she’s a ferocious competitor who always demonstrates complete respect for the rules.”
There will be some stiff competition in New Haven to bring home the individual award. Fellow finalists Kanzy El-Defrawy of Trinity and Anna Gabriela Porras of George Washington have also been indispensable parts of their teams’ respective successes.
Associate head coach Gilly Lane has experience being in a similar situation, capturing the Skillman Award as a senior in 2006. While both Lane and Tan were nominated for the top awards in college squash for their respective genders, Lane said the similarities stop there.
“She’s definitely been more decorated,” Lane added. “[Tan]’s the poster child for what it means to be a successful squash player here at Penn.”
With an Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, an Ivy championship, three All-American selections, a nomination as (at least) a finalist for the Richey award, and the chance to bring home a national championship, Tan has compiled one of the most successful careers in Penn squash history.
“Most people dream of only getting one in four years,” Lane said. “It’s a testament to how hard she’s worked and who she is as a person.”
During her four-year stint in Philadelphia, the Malaysian native’s team has beaten every school it has faced at least once, while only dropping 11 total matches since the 2012-13 season. Key to the Red and Blue’s success these past four years has been the senior’s consistent performance at the top of the ladder.
Tan has undergone her own transformation during her four years as a Quaker. From her rise from freshman to senior co-captain, the old adage about putting the team over one’s self became prevalent in her approach to the game.
“As the years progressed, I cared less about my individual performance,” Tan said. “That has changed from when I was a freshman.”
In the midst of one of the best eras in Penn women’s squash history, just three wins separate the team from the elusive Howe Cup trophy. The road to the championship will be littered with national powerhouses, but with Yan Xin Tan leading the way, the path looks a little less daunting.
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