As Penn squash counts down the days until they set off on this newest adventure, the teams will be looking to their captains to see which direction they’re headed.
Last season was undoubtedly a triumphant one for both sides of the Red and Blue. A fifth-place national finish for the men and a runners-up ending for the women showed that both sides have made hard claims to belonging among the country’s elite.
With the graduation of last year’s seasoned leaders, however, Penn will welcome a new group of captains as the program looks to repeat its success. Those burdens will fall on three sets of shoulders: senior B.G. Lemmon for the men, and senior Grace Van Arkel and junior Melissa Alves for the women.
On the men’s side, the election of one captain marks a serious departure from last year’s situation, which featured three co-captains in then-seniors Augie Frank, Liam Quinn and Tyler Odell.
While three captains might be irregular for what is already such a small team, Lemmon does not believe there were too many cooks in the kitchen.
“That was really advantageous, to have three different voices, three different personalities for everyone to look up to,” Lemmon said.
According to Lemmon, each captain brought a leadership style to the team, ensuring that each aspect of the Quakers’ day-to-day routine was tended to. Frank pushed the team in training, Quinn served as the team’s vocal leader and Odell led by example on the court.
As a lone captain, Lemmon will face a large task in trying to unite all three roles under a single name, but the Villanova, Pa., native believes he is up to the task.
“I like to consider myself a mixture of the three,” Lemmon said. “It definitely will be different with one captain this year, but I was really close with all three of those guys and was able to observe them along with captains before me.
“I just want to take pieces of them and weave it into how I’m approaching this year."
Last season was a particularly strong one for Lemmon, who went 15-2 overall and broke the program record for most wins in a single season. He credits his former captains with guiding him to his best year so far and hopes to do the same with his new role.
Whereas the men’s team is decreasing the number of captains, their partner program has done the opposite in electing both Van Arkel and Alves. With two leaders, however, Van Arkel believes that she and Alves will both be able to focus on what they do best and help the team reach new heights in the coming season.
“We have different leadership styles, but at the end of the day we want the best for the team,” Van Arkel said. “Melissa takes care of the squash aspect, and I take care of some of the other more logistical aspects. I think that we’ve found a good balance that brings out the best in both of our leadership styles.”
Last season Alves was forced to the sidelines after four matches due to injury, but the French Guiana native is surely eager to reclaim her place as one of the team’s top contenders. In her freshman season, Alves went undefeated in the league at the Nos. 3 and 4 positions en route to a post-season ranking of No. 22 in the CSA Individual Rankings.
Van Arkel has also been a strong component of the Quakers’ lineup ever since she transferred from Columbia in her sophomore year.
“It’s a really great honor to feel respected by my fellow team members and that they felt confident in my leadership after only knowing me for a short period of time,” Van Arkel said.
All three captains of Penn squash will have big shoes to fill as they navigate these uncharted waters. After last season, both teams seemed poised to be on the up and up, but it will take some seasoned leaders to ensure that progress continues.