Last season, the Penn men's squash team had talent at the top, but it lacked depth. This season, depth isn't a problem. And for that, the Quakers can thank their freshmen. Penn depended on veterans like co-captains Peter Withstandley and Will Ruthrauff last season. But this year, the Quakers' lineup has been filled out by as many as four freshmen in a match. "Our upperclassmen have been good at setting the tone for our matches," Penn freshman Matt Vergare said. "Their experience helps the younger guys focus." For many teams, a lineup so heavily comprised of newcomers would signal a rebuilding year, but the Red and Blue have other plans this season. Five freshmen -- Jason Lam, Vergare, Daniel Rottenberg, David Ferreira and Charlie Fuller -- have recorded 15 of the Quakers' 34 match victories this season. Lam, who was a tennis player in Hong Kong, has steadily manned the No. 4 spot for the Quakers this season. After being shut out in his first two collegiate matches, Lam has rebounded, piecing together a four-match winning streak. "I was nervous at the beginning of the year, but I feel confident in my place in the lineup now," Lam said. "[Penn coach Craig Thorpe-Clark] has prepared us well, so I only expect the best out of myself every time I play." Vergare, who was ranked 21st in the nation his senior year at Chestnut Hill Academy (Pa.), has been a steadying force in the lower half of the Quakers lineup. He currently has a 3-3 record, which includes a win filling in at the No. 4 spot against Vassar. "I think that all the members of our team have the same expectations," said Vergare, one of the few nationally-ranked high school squash athletes on the Penn squad. "No one can be completely content with a loss." Rottenberg, a captain of his high school team in Miami, has a 4-2 record and shares the team lead for wins by a freshman with Lam. "Being a part of the lineup so early is a real challenge," Rottenberg said. "It will be useful in the future because I'm gaining so much match experience." Ferreira and Fuller, who have seen part-time duty in the lineup, have pitched in two wins apiece for the Red and Blue. The recent influx of talent, especially that of nationally ranked talent, is a good indication of where the team is headed. "Obviously a strong young team is a sign of good things for the future," Vergare said. "A better team can draw better players to the program." The revitalization of Penn's program can be attributed to both the strong play of the Quakers veterans and the efforts of their coach. Penn's ability to attract top players is a direct reflection on Thorpe-Clark, one of only four coaches in the United States to hold the ranking of Level 4 coach. "Having Craig is a real privilege," Rottenberg said. "He is a great guy who cares about his players on and off the court." Thorpe-Clark's reputation as one of the best coaches in college squash gives Penn leverage to recruit experienced high school players who in the past have gone to competitors. "Craig is a world-renowned coach and, in fact, helped me decide to come to Penn," Vergare said. The freshman class has already made its mark on a Quakers team that is currently 4-3. Penn was not above .500 at any point last season. "I feel that no matter what happens with the rankings and number of wins, the team will feel satisfied with what we have accomplished this year," Lam said. With veteran Roberto Kriete's recent return to the lineup, the present -- as well as the future -- looks bright for the Red and Blue. If the Quakers' five freshmen, none of whom have losing records, continue to improve, the NISRA team championship tournament at the end of the season will see a very dangerous Quakers team.Comments powered by Disqus
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