reehamsalah

Women's squash will look to push further in 2016-17 with a national championship. They currently are one of the few winter sports poised to steal a national title along with their male counterparts, and sophomore Reeham Salah will play a role in that.

The winter sports season is right around the corner. In anticipation, our editors debated: Which team are you most excited to see play?

Sports Editor Tom Nowlan:

For me, the answer has got to be men’s hoops.

A year ago, Steve Donahue’s first season as coach saw the Red and Blue overcome the loss of two star players: Tony Hicks sat out his final season of eligibility in order to use it at Louisville while Antonio Woods was ruled academically ineligible in January. Still, the team’s system of dribble-drives and three-point shots was able to guide the squad to a 5th-place Ivy finish, an improvement over their tied-for-last showing in Jerome Allen’s final season.

This year, the team will feature a bevy of new faces: Freshman AJ Brodeur figures to be the team’s primary option down low while junior transfers Caleb Wood and Matt MacDonald will likely get significant minutes at guard.

These newcomers will join an established crew that includes sharpshooters Jackson Donahue and Sam Jones, starting point guard Jake Silpe, and hyper-athletic senior veteran Matt Howard. After no player averaged more than 12.7 points per game a year ago, look for the team to once again spread the wealth on offense. The possible midseason return of Woods in January also remains a wild card.

And that’s just the stuff on the court. Can you deny the inherent excitement that comes from men’s games at the Palestra? Win or lose, the energy of the crowd during a Big 5 or conference matchup is something that you can’t find anywhere else in Penn Athletics.

Associate Sports Editor

Andrew Zheng:

I to hate hop on the bandwagon, but there’s no season quite like squash season. I mean, it’s hard to believe that the most exciting team isn’t going to be the same one as the team most likely to win a national championship. For Penn, that undeniably means women’s squash.

When the dust settled at the end of February, the Quakers had firmly staked their claim to being one of the best teams in the country. The Red and Blue erased any doubt that they were a league above the rest with a second place finish at the CSA Team National Championships. But don’t expect those runners-up medals to bring up too many good memories for the Quakers, who were a match away from topping Harvard for the national title.

Last season was essentially a two-team show between the Quakers and the Crimson. Penn’s 14-2 record is littered with an absurd amount of 9-0 shutouts, even over teams that were also ranked in the top ten. The Red and Blue’s only losses came at the hands of their Cambridge rivals, which means they will definitely be going into this new campaign with a chip on their shoulders. If anything, that makes them more exciting.

As for players, how could you not be excited about somebody like Reeham Salah? Known around the league as “The Hammer,” Salah played all of her matches at the No. 1 spot last campaign, and her cannon of a shot has showed no sign of abating in her sophomore season. This year will also feature the return of junior Melissa Alves, who played four games at the No. 2 spot before a season-ending injury.

With a star studded cast, a sinister arch-nemesis and the potential for a magical ending, how could you not be looking forward to return of squash season?

Sports Editor Tommy Rothman:

I’m most excited for Penn women’s basketball. It’s an easy choice, and here’s why:

Last year, the Quakers won the Ivy title, earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and traveled to Maryland to face Washington. I, and a few others in the department, made the trip as well. The game was an absolute battle. The Red and Blue led in the final seconds of the 3rd quarter and it was a one-possession game going into the fourth. The Huskies didn’t pull away until the very end of the game.

What’s so exciting about that? Would winning ONE game in March Madness have been much different than winning zero? Yes, for two reasons. First of all, Penn has never won an NCAA Tournament game. A win there would have been its first.

And more importantly, it very well may not have been the last. After squeezing past the Quakers, Washington embarked on a magical run through the tournament, making it all the way to the Final Four. Forward Chantel Osahor became an internet sensation with her no-jump jump shots, and Kelsey Plum dominated enough to become a prospective top-three pick in the WNBA draft.

Could that have been Penn? Based on the Washington game, maybe it could have been. Maybe Sydney Stipanovich and Michelle Nwokedi would have become overnight NCAA sensations.

But instead, they’ll have to settle for being the best two players in the Ivy League, on a team unanimously considered the favorite to win the Ancient Eight according to the Ivy League preseason media poll.

Then, they’ll be back in the tournament. And then, we’ll see if the Quakers can work some real magic.

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