Success breeds success. After a dominating season last year, Penn squash will look to build upon its excellent foundations with stellar new recruits for this go-around.
From the perspective of Jack Wyant, the Director of Squash at Penn, freshmen David Yacobucci and Wil Hagen are assets that the team will benefit from right away.
“They’ve had some big wins in their junior career, and now they’ll have the opportunity every day in practice to train with some great players, some proven college standouts,” Wyant said. “I think if they apply themselves in terms of taking care of themselves outside of Ringe, and working hard physically and mentally in terms of learning what the college game is all about, I think they can make tremendous strides this year and throughout their careers.”
Their combined wealth of talent and experience is substantial. Yacobucci comes in with two squash All-American honors from 2014 and 2015 and was featured in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” series, while Hagen helped the U.S. Men’s National Team to a gold medal at the 2015 Pan-American Juniors in Argentina and was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Junior Squash Championships in 2015.
Discussing his path to Penn, Yacobucci noted that his years at perennial high school squash juggernaut Brunswick in Greenwich, Conn., will aid him at the collegiate level.
“A lot of kids come to college and haven’t really had any seriously competitive team experience,” he said. “My team in high school was very competitive so I’m used to that type of atmosphere.
“With the team at Penn, I think everybody is a great guy and didn’t think anywhere else had right set-up in terms of guys and talent, so Penn was the right fit for me,” he added.
Contrasting with the high school success of Yacobucci, Hagen’s journey through the international level brings him to Penn with a unique set of skills and strengths.
“Throughout US Junior squash, you play a lot of the same guys and see a lot of the same faces. The Pan-American games was somewhere I could see a lot of new faces and competitors and styles of play that I’m expecting to see in college, so that was a great opportunity to get that experience of facing new opponents,” Hagen said. “It was also a really good team building experience, because throughout juniors I played as an individual, and didn’t really have a team, so it built my teamwork skills up for Penn.”
Looking at the women’s team, Penn wrapped up last year with a second-place finish at the CSA Championships, topping the likes of Trinity and Stanford, giving them the opportunity to displace Harvard for the top spot this season. The team will be welcoming five new student-athletes, a fairly large recruiting class with plenty of power to boast.
Aside from the obvious amount of technical quality the bunch brings to the squad, Wyant was particularly impressed with the attitudes and work ethics of the newcomers.
“That is something that really as a coach, when you spend so much time recruiting student-athletes, you can’t predict what their demeanor will be like,” he said. “Being a Penn student is extremely demanding, and you get pulled in a lot of different directions every day, so for them to come to practice excited to improve and be with their teammates is really energizing for the coaches and the team.”
The freshmen entering the fray for the women come with long resumes. The newest recruiting class boasts Jessica Davis, a member of England’s U-19 squad; Clare Kearns, four-time US Squash Scholar-Athlete honoree; Lindsay Stanley, three-time High School Squash All-American; Brookie McIlvaine, a top player at elite Saint Andrew’s School and Alexandra Sharpe, a New England Interscholastic Squash champion.
Regarding getting their feet wet, Wyant said to expect the new members to get onto the ladders right away, and if they can remain calm under pressure, perhaps advance on up as they settle into the collegiate game.
Chasing titles on both fronts, the Quakers will look to make full usage of their new weapons as the new season kicks off.