On a dreary Saturday afternoon two weeks ago, Penn women’s squash hosted top-ranked Harvard.
The score sheet claimed the Quakers had lost to the Crimson, 5-4, and technically, it was right.
Technically, the win was simply another notch on Harvard’s belt — just one of its 20 consecutive victories.
The Red and Blue (7-3, 4-2 Ivy) may have lost the match, but they gained something invaluable in the process.
“The fact that we matched up so well against them and came so close to beating them definitely gave us confidence,” senior captain Annie Madeira said. “And it’s made us work that much harder because we realize we have such a good shot.”
Sophomore Nabilla Ariffin took a set against Harvard’s top-ranked Laura Gemmell, who had won all her matches this season in straight sets until she faced Ariffin.
Along with Madeira, sophomores Yarden Odinak and Pia Trikha took their matches handily, controlling the middle portion of the ladder.
“That match showed how much effort we’ve put in this year,” Trikha said, “and how much it’s paid off.”
The confidence that the Quakers can play with any team in the nation will be invaluable at this weekend’s Howe Cup, a three-day tournament in which the top eight schools in the country duke it out for the coveted national championship.
“This weekend gets very chaotic,” Madeira said. “Every single team is there, and it’s so easy to get caught up in all the chaos, but the most important thing is staying on target.”
The Red and Blue’s first target is a Princeton team (9-4, 3-3) that they defeated three weeks ago on the shoulders of their captain, who won the last match of the day to help Penn to a 5-4 victory.
If the Quakers take that match, Yale (14-0, 6-0) — the team that defeated the Quakers at the beginning of the season and is fresh off a win over Harvard — looms on the horizon. While the Bulldogs proved victorious in the regular season, the Quakers are a changed team.
“I don’t really know how to explain the changes,” Madeira said. “We’ve gotten faster, fitter, stronger, more focused.”
If Penn is able to traverse past the Bulldogs, the Crimson (9-1, 5-1) will more than likely serve as their opponents in the final for the second-straight year.
While Harvard won handily last season in the very same situation, this time, Penn will have two valuable weeks of game play behind them.
“[This is] definitely the hardest working team that I’ve seen in my four years,” Madeira said. “In terms of being as ready as we possibly can be, I think we definitely are.”
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