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Penn mens Squash vs F&M Credit: Garrett Gomez , Garrett Gomez

Penn men’s and women’s squash entered the heart of conference play on Wednesday night with their first of five consecutive Ivy matches against rival Princeton. The mid-week jaunt brought mixed results for Penn, with the men narrowly losing to the Tigers in a 5-4 decision and the women came away with a 6-3 victory.

The day’s competitions were particularly somber for Princeton, as they came just hours after legendary former men’s team head coach Bob Callahan passed away from cancer. Callahan handed the reigns to Sean Wilkinson in 2013, just one year after Princeton won its third national title in Callahan’s 32-year tenure.

On the men’s side, the loss snapped Penn’s two-match winning streak, halting the momentum the team just barely reestablished following two consecutive tough losses to top-five ranked teams in Harvard and Trinity two weeks ago.

The Quakers (6-4, 1-2 Ivy) can thank their talented underclassmen for keeping the match as close as it was. Of the five points Penn earned against Princeton (4-4, 2-1), three came from freshmen playing at the top of the ladder: Marwan Mahmoud at No. 1, Hayes Murphy at No. 3 and James Watson at No. 5. Mahmoud has been particularly impressive for the Quakers this season, holding down the team’s top spot with a record of 9-2.

Things don’t ease up this weekend as Penn faces two Ivy foes: Yale (6-3, 1-1) on Saturday and Brown (4-2, 0-2) on Sunday. The No. 13 Bears should not pose too much of a threat for the Quakers, but the Elis, on the other hand, would be a key win for Penn if the Red and Blue hope to contend for the Ivy League crown this season.

For the women, the matchup against Princeton looked to be the first time the Quakers have had to really flex their muscles to pull off a win since facing then-top-ranked Harvard and Trinity two weeks ago. Indeed, the conference game was the just the second time all season that the Quakers have won without sweeping their opponent.

Led by sophomore Maria Elena Ubia, the defending Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Princeton was able to take individual victories at the No. 1, 2 and 9 spots on the ladder. But the Tigers were no match for Penn’s deep squad. The Quakers stymied their Ancient Eight rival from the beginning of match play with a pair of two-point, fifth-set wins in the opening shift from freshman Melissa Alves at No. 3 and junior Haidi Lala at No. 6.

Looking ahead, the women’s team will be back in action against Ancient Eight competition this weekend as it hits the road to face No. 4 Yale on Saturday and No. 11 Brown on Sunday. The Quakers are 1-1 against teams ranked in the top five, so this weekend’s game against the Bulldogs (17-4, 5-2) will provide Penn with an ample test. Brown (3-2, 0-2), on the other hand, should give the Quakers yet another tally in the win column.

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