Break is over.
The Penn men’s squash team was reminded of that fact over the weekend, as it faced two top-ten teams in back-to-back days.
On Saturday, Penn was demolished by Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., losing 9-0. The Quakers then traveled to Hanover, N.H., on Sunday and while the score was more respectable, Penn still fell 5-4, dropping their first two matches since last playing on Dec. 10.
Often, teams can be a little rusty having not played a match for a few weeks, but coach Jack Wyant said that was not the case for his squad. The team felt that they had just played, and lost to, two tough opponents.
The No. 5 Crimson (10-1, 2-1 Ivy) rolled over the No. 9 Quakers (3-3, 0-3) for its tenth straight win and eighth straight sweep. No Penn player even managed to take a game in his respective match on Saturday. The Crimson did, however, lose their first match this season to No. 3 Princeton the following day.
Sunday’s contest against No. 7 Dartmouth (5-2, 1-2) demonstrated that Penn’s strength lies in the second half of their roster. Whereas Quakers’ top five players dropped their matches and managed to win only two games, Penn’s No. 6 through 9 players came through with victories.
“Our underclassmen did a great job today,” senior co-captain Thomas Mattsson said, referring to the No. 6-9 players, all sophomores or freshmen.
Three of underclassmen’s matches went the distance, demonstrating a marked improvement of mental toughness in five-game matches, an area that the team focused on earlier in the season.
“I was very proud of the guys at No. 6, 7, 8 and 9,” Wyant said. “They showed a lot of grit, a lot of determination.”
Justin Ang played particularly well, winning his match in straight games —11-4, 11-4, 13-11.
Wyant shuffled the lineup for the top four players this weekend, with Dan Greenberg and Daniel Judd moving up to the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively, while co-captain Trevor McGuinness now fills the No. 4 spot.
While the Red and the Blue remain winless in the stacked Ivy League, their 5-4 loss at Dartmouth is a sign of improvement over their 9-0 loss to the same team on a neutral court in a pre-season scrimmage.
The players agree that the fitness and patience they’ve focused on in practice over winter break has led to visible improvement in matches.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Mattsson noted.
While Penn can take solace in the improvement, there is one pressing issue: Penn is 0-3 against higher ranked opponents. To receive an invite to the year-end NCAA tournament, which only takes the top eight teams, the Quakers will almost certainly need to pull off an upset, which they have a chance to do against No. 8 Franklin & Marshall Thursday.