This weekend, both the men’s and women’s squash teams will travel to New Haven, Conn. to compete in the Ivy League Scrimmages.
Held over the course of two days, the Scrimmages will provide an opportunity for each program to gauge not only its standing in the conference but also its potential for the rest of the season.
While the Scrimmages are an annual event, the 2010 installment will mark a first for the Quakers in that both teams will arrive and compete under the instruction of one coach: Jack Wyant, who enters his seventh year with the women and his first with the men.
“It’s a pretty high caliber competition in a setting where wins and losses don’t matter,” Wyant said.
“The Ivy League is very strong in a national perspective, so a lot of times if you’re successful in the league, you’ll be successful nationally,” he added.
Last year, Wyant coached the women to a second-place national finish, bringing two of his seniors into the top twenty. The men’s team trailed behind, however, ending their season in ninth place nationally.
Wyant inherited the men’s program this summer after former head coach Craig Thorpe-Clark resigned.
In spite of the ill luck that met the team last season — then sophomore standout Thomas Mattsson sustained an injury that sidelined him for much of the year — and a less than perfect record, Wyant has high hopes for the men’s program.
“We’ve loaded the men up with a lot of work this fall — I mean a tremendous amount of running and lifting and playing, and they’ve responded really well,” Wyant said.
Newly acquired assistant coach Amy Gross said she hopes Mattsson’s return will bring the depth the men’s team needs to win “key matches.”
Wyant also brought in former Penn standout Gilly Lane as a part-time assistant to help him helm both teams.
On the women’s side, Wyant plans to keep things in tip-top shape, just as they have been over the course of his Penn coaching tenure.
In terms of personnel, however, the women will face their own set of challenges, as they enter this season carrying only one upperclassman, senior captain Annie Madeira. Additionally, the Quakers graduated four strong seniors including all-America selections Sydney Scott and Kristen Lange.
Both Wyant and new assistant coach Amy Gross — who in her own collegiate career led the Bulldogs to three straight national championships and took the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games — expressed no concern as to the team’s potential, touting instead Madeira’s leadership abilities.
Other players-to-watch include sophomore Nabilla Ariffin, who was ranked last season at 21st in the nation, and the team’s three freshmen: Chloe Blacker, Courtney Jones and Hyland Murphy.
On Saturday, the women will open against Brown, who finished the 2009-10 season ranked tenth in the College Squash Association. The men will take on Harvard, who ended last year in fifth.