North Shore High School '98
Old Brookville, N.Y.
The 24-year wait was long, but to the members of the Penn women's squash team, it was well worth it.
The Quakers captured their first-ever national championship on February 20, defeating Princeton in the finals of the Howe Cup in New Haven, Conn.
With a 5-4 victory over the second-seeded Tigers at the national team championship finals at Yale, the top-ranked Quakers returned to Philadelphia undefeated, with a trophy in hand -- at the top of their sport.
Penn, which before this season had never beaten Harvard or Princeton in 24 years of trying, rode to glory on the heels of eight regular season victories and three Howe Cup wins -- including the triumph over the defending national champion Tigers -- with not a single loss to blemish its final record.
"I feel like I want to go shout it out to the world," Penn senior Paige Kollock said. "I'm proud to be a part of this team."
"Everybody piled on the court, and I think we did a little bit of a team cheer," Penn coach Demer Holleran said of the Quakers' celebration. "We always say, 'Who's the best?' and feeling strong about ourselves, we say, 'We're the best!' And, of course, when we said that after the victory, 'Who's the best?', we had quite a resounding, 'We're the best!'"
Kollock only knew who the best actually was after her match -- the final one of the day and the final one of her Penn career -- had concluded.
As she was battling Princeton's Courtenay Green, Penn junior Helen Bamber was easily putting away her opponent for the Quakers' fifth and national-championship-clinching win. At that point, with the score 5-3 in favor of Penn, the outcome of Kollock's match had no bearing on which team would win the title. But she did not know that.
"I heard from the other court that it was 8-4, match ball," Kollock said, referring to Bamber's match. "But I didn't know if it was [Penn] match ball or [Princeton] match ball, and then I played about two points and I heard a loud cheering. I knew that that was the deciding match, but I didn't know if we had won or if they had won.... It was a little nerve-racking."
Kollock lost her tightly contested match 3-2, but she was relieved to learn that it was in fact Penn that had ascended to the championship.
This Penn ascension was helped tremendously by Katie Patrick's performance in Penn's 5-4 victory over Harvard in the semifinals.
Penn's second victory of the season over Harvard was tougher than its previous 6-3 win against the Crimson.
"It's sometimes hard to come back and regain the intensity and the desire that it takes to beat any team a second time," Holleran said. "We were a little bit flat going into that match. We weren't quite as sharp and quite as focused."
While the Quakers captured all the matches in the second spot through the fifth, Harvard won the matches from the sixth spot to the ninth.
With Penn and Harvard tied at 4-4, Patrick, playing at No. 1, trailed Harvard sophomore Margaret Elias 2-1. But Patrick rallied to capture the next two games and the match, winning the team match for the Quakers.
"I'll never count Katie out because she's had some amazing wins for us, but at the same time Katie was a little bit flat," Holleran said. "She knew that the team victory was riding on her at that point. She started moving a little bit better, started to be a little bit quicker."
While Patrick was given the Howe Cup's Margaret Richey Award for her displays of skill and sportsmanship, she faced a formidable challenge in Cornell's Olga Puigdemont-Sola, to whom she had lost twice earlier in the season.
Puigdemont-Sola beat Patrick again, but Penn dominated the Big Red, 8-1, in the first round of the Howe Cup.
Penn moved on to the title, and now the Red and Blue can sit content in the knowledge that they are the best in the land.Comments powered by Disqus
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