In the most obvious way, the Howe Cup was not what the Penn women's squash team had hoped it would be -- the team left Yale with a fourth-place finish instead of bearing the national championship trophy it had brought home just one season before. But in some ways, the weekend became the quintessence of what the Red and Blue expected from themselves as a team. The effort they had put into three-day tournament, particularly in their match against Harvard, was all that they could possibly ask for. "I don't think about the fact that we finished fourth," Penn coach Demer Holleran said. "We played so hard against Harvard with such a strong hope -- and the realistic possibility -- to win." With cuts, bruises and even broken teeth, the Quakers played their most trying match of the season against the Crimson, both physically and mentally. "That match was an emotional ride," Penn senior Helen Bamber said. "Everyone put in a huge effort in their matches. We weren't sure about my No. 3 match, but we got a win, which was really exciting. "And then Megan [Fuller] and Dafna [Wegner] both had very grueling matches and in the end, were edged out, which was so upsetting. And then Runa [Reta] lost and we were all devastated." Fuller, Wegner, and Reta's matches all went to five games, complete with physical play and controversial calls. But in the end, the Crimson moved on to the finals, and eventually went on to win the Howe Cup. "Nobody likes to lose," Bamber said. "We don't think it was a bad effort, though, just unfortunate circumstances." After the exhausting match versus the Crimson on Saturday, the Quakers found it difficult to fully rebound and exert the same effort against Princeton in a battle for third place. "It was hard to get up for Princeton's match," Penn senior co-captain Lauren Patrizio said on Sunday. "I was disappointed with the losses but we have nothing to be ashamed of." While the Quakers had the same aspirations as the team of last season to repeat as national champions, they realized that they would have to do so with a revamped lineup. The Red and Blue lost six seniors to graduation last year, including Katie Patrick, who was a first-team All-American as well as a first-team All-Ivy selection in all four years she played for Penn. On a team where only nine athletes officially compete in a match, the loss of half-dozen players is surely amplified. "This team this year is so different because in all of the seasons that I've been here, we've always had the six seniors that graduated last year," Bamber said. "You can't even compare this year's team to last year's because they really are completely different." Accordingly, Penn has had to incorporate four new freshmen into the team picture -- a difficult feat since intercollegiate squash is a different game than that of high school or individual squash. "As a freshman, I had never been to the Howe Cup before and was unprepared for the atmosphere of the tournament," Penn's Katie Fetter said. "It showed me that I need to work on my nerves and anxiety when playing. The environment was quite a test of focus and concentration." Even before the season began, the Quakers addressed the issue of playing as the reigning national champions. "At the beginning we talked about how we wanted to think of ourselves as a team distinct from last year's team," Holleran said. "We wanted to compete on our own." And as the seniors look back on the last Howe Cup with some sadness, partly due to disappointment but mostly due to the end of their accomplished Penn careers, they hope that the returning Quakers will use this year's experience to get back the national championship. "We were so close to beating Harvard, which makes it that much harder to deal with now," Patrizio said. "But we have to take away the positives from the weekend, especially the players that will be returning. It was really good for them to see what it's all about." For some of the Quakers, however, the season is not yet over -- Intercollegiates, a tournament to determine the individual champion of the season, is just two weeks away. "It's such a different element," Patrizio said. "It's much more individually oriented and it's our last chance to play some really good competitive squash." The Quakers competing in Intercollegiates will use the coming weeks to prepare, improve and recover. For Wegner, that means resting up to recover from her weekend of physical match play, which included three broken front teeth. "I haven't starting practicing yet," Wegner said. "I did get some new temporary teeth."Comments powered by Disqus
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