When the Penn men's squash team hits the courts this season, the Quakers certainly will not falter due to a lack of effort or conditioning. In just his second year at the helm, coach Craig Thorpe-Clark has the Quakers not only working hard, but also focused on becoming much better. "Craig has really pushed us and gotten us into fitness and running," Penn junior John Griffin said. "The team is taking the conditioning as a step toward the next goal, which is improving." Sophomore Elan Levy ÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿ agrees that Thorpe-Clark's commitment to make the team more focused has been a positive influence. "Craig pushes us to work harder than most teams do," Levy said. "He is dedicated to turning around a program that in the past was not as committed to improving as it is now." Thorpe-Clark likewise attributes the team's new focus to its work ethic. "The kids have been terrific," Thorpe-Clark said. "They've become more organized and more focused. Each year, the team is getting more serious and more committed. "My expectations are going up each year, and they are meeting them." This dedication, focus and good work ethic is essential to a successful season for a team that lacks experience. In its first match of the season against Cornell, the Quakers put more freshmen and sophomores on the court than juniors and seniors. Nonetheless, led by senior co-captains Pete Withstandley and Will Ruthrauff, the Red and Blue has its sights set on a successful season, even after the 8-1 season-opening loss to the Big Red. "The program is really starting to come together," Levy said. "In Craig's second year, he is becoming more comfortable and everyone is gaining experience. By the end of the year, we hope to position ourselves as one of the top 10 teams in the country." The Red and Blue are hoping for major contributions from their young players on and off the court. "The younger players are bringing enthusiasm to the court, and it's paying dividends," Thorpe-Clark said. "Everyone is on the same page. Everyone wants to work hard and do well." Also, team leaders Withstandley and Ruthrauff provide the key leadership necessary for the freshmen to make the transition to college play. "The top one or two guys usually distance themselves on most teams, but not here," freshman Matt Vergare said. "Everyone is really close and stays tight." Withstandley will assume the No. 1 position for the Quakers this year and looks to improve upon a solid season last year in which he was named the team MVP. But, Thorpe-Clark realizes that it will take more than the success of Withstandley for the Quakers to improve. On Saturday, for instance, the No. 1 player won, but the Quakers fell to Cornell. "Everyone's performance is equally important," he said. "The No. 9 position is just as important as the No. 1. One person does not have that much of an impact." Still, the Quakers view their ability to come together off the court as yet another advantage. "The camaraderie of the team has been a big plus," Griffin said. "It's much better when you can go to the court not just as teammates but as friends." Unity, dedication and a great work ethic can not compensate for the Quakers' lack of experience. But as the season goes on and the younger players play more collegiate matches, the Quakers' racquets might make a lot of noise both inside and outside the difficult Ivy League.Comments powered by Disqus
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