Anyone who follows Penn squash knows of Thomas Mattsson. Over four years, the team’s senior co-captain has played in 52 matches for Penn, almost exclusively at the No. 1 spot.
Fewer people know his brother, Oscar, who is just beginning his career with the Quakers. As a freshman, he played three matches at the No. 8 and No. 9 positions.
Squash runs in the Mattsson family. Thomas and Oscar’s mother, Deborah Lippincott, played squash for the Quakers in the mid-1970s. Their brother, Nils, played at Navy.
Despite their squash lineage, family history with was not the main catalyst that led the brothers to take up the sport.
“It was more of just a location thing, being in Philadelphia … and being a member of the Philadelphia Cricket Club, which is a big squash program,” the elder Mattsson said.
Oscar agreed with his brother’s assessment.
“Philadelphia’s kind of the epicenter of squash,” he said.
Interestingly, the younger Mattsson was the first to take up squash. At that time, a middle-school aged Thomas was playing tennis, but it became impractical.
“It was winter, and getting on the indoor tennis courts was just a hassle,” Thomas said. “There were a lot of squash courts available, so [it was] just sort of a natural transition.”
Choosing Penn, however, was more related to family ties to the school.
“It’s been a family thing,” Oscar said. “Thomas was playing here for a couple of years, and then I had the opportunity. I was thrilled — thrilled to get in and thrilled to be part of the program.”
While Thomas pointed to the fact that his grandmother and mother attended Penn, other reasons factored into the decision as well.
“I grew up around Penn. I played probably 20 tournaments here, so I was comfortable,” he said. “I knew the coach pretty well. I knew a lot of the players that had gone here.”
While both brothers have been playing squash for a decade, they never played on the same team until this year.
“By the time I was at [The] Lawrenceville [School], he was at Penn,” said Oscar, who transferred to the high school as a sophomore.
Because they were always in different age groups, they never had a sibling rivalry, Thomas said.
This year has brought a new experience for the brothers and, finally, teammates.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Oscar said.
However, the time playing together won’t last. Thomas won’t return to Ringe Courts next season — at least, not as a player. He’s set to graduate in May.
Thomas’ absence will be palpable. Penn men’s squash may only be losing two players this year — the other Trevor McGuinness — but the two are arguably the team’s most important.
For Oscar, one might imagine there’s a large void for him to fill. His brother has practically owned the No. 1 position since the beginning of 2009. But the younger Mattsson doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“It’s not a big deal at all,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m in [Thomas’] shadow … I’m just hoping we can maintain [the] momentum they’ve got.”
Just because Oscar hasn’t moved up the ladder as quickly as his brother — he’s played 11 of his 14 matches at the No. 10 slot — does not mean he won’t have a large impact on the team going forward.
“[Oscar has] improved more this year than he has in the last five years combined,” Thomas said.
“Like Peyton Manning, Oscar’s the better one,” Thomas added.
Time will tell if Oscar will join Thomas as one of the best Quakers to have graced Ringe Courts. But Oscar’s career may more parallel Peyton’s younger brother, Eli. Everyone knew Peyton before anyone paid attention to Eli, who had to carve out his own legacy.
Oscar will have three years to do the same.
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