All good things must come to an end. For Penn men’s squash, that includes the winning streak over crosstown rival Drexel.
On Wednesday night, the ninth-ranked Dragons took down the visiting sixth-ranked Quakers, 5-4, for their very first victory in the six-year history of the matchup. The contest came down to the wire, with only a couple of points reversing the score line from last year’s match.
Things started out steady for Penn (2-1), with senior captain BG Lemmon leading the way with a win in four games. However, Drexel (4-2) took the next three slots, including a forfeit by junior Derek Hsue in his fifth game after tweaking an ankle. Juniors Hayes Murphy and Anders Larson managed to pull the score back to three apiece. After going up 4-3, the Dragons’ four-slot senior Michael Thompson was able to close out against Penn junior James Watson in the fifth game, clinching the match for the home team despite Watson mounting a valiant comeback from down 2-0.
This certainly comes as an upset to Penn, especially after coming in with a head of steam thanks to two 9-0 victories over George Washington and Virginia. Considering the Red and Blue only dropped two games combined between those two opponents, this raises the question of whether complacency was a factor in the Drexel defeat.
Lemmon doesn’t believe the team can go on cruise control, citing their incredibly hungry mentality.
“We like to go after teams, and we’re aware after our success last year we have the target on our back, and we keep reiterating the points of not being complacent or satisfied with where we’re at,” he said. “As long as you keep that mentality in check and keep approaching everything as the hunter it’s pretty easy to lock down and stay focused.”
The win marks a milestone for the Dragons, who have been building their program for some time and now are reaping the rewards. Penn coach Gilly Lane noted that their powerful presence in University City will benefit both programs down the road.
“We’re just excited just have a Philadelphia rival just like basketball does and growing up around the Big Five you always want that, especially in squash as well,” Lane said. To have such a great program such a short walk away is great for us and for them. It makes us get better each year.”
Regarding his own squad, Lane feels that the performance left something to be desired, but that Drexel truly earned the win.
“We have to play the bigger points better. We had the opportunities in a couple matches today, but they didn’t go our way,” he said. “They’ve wanted this win for a couple of years now and have been getting closer and closer. They wanted it more than us today I think. They played the bigger points better, they are very well coached, and there’s a lot of talent on that team so they’re gonna be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.”
Penn will have an excellent opportunity to rebound this weekend, with a trip up to New York to face powerhouses Rochester and then St. Lawrence on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. The Yellow Jackets walked over the Big Green on Wednesday when Dartmouth faced them on the road, while the Saints swept the University of Western Ontario Mustangs on their home court in their last time out.
Lane is excited for another chance to move the season in the right direction against well-respected opposition, but notes that conference play is still yet to commence.
“We have to move forward, there’s no looking back. We have to keep working to improve and find ways to get better. Dwelling on the past won’t help us accomplish what we want to this year,” he said. “Our goals are still in sight, and though it’s a tough loss today, the Ivy League season still to play. We’ll take this one on the chin. We’re gonna go back to the drawing board and redraw it up for this weekend.”
If last year is indicative of anything, then perhaps the spark of Penn’s upsets of these two at 6-3 and 5-4 in early December will carry the Quakers this time around.
Perhaps conventional wisdom goes out the door, and the team with the most passion will walk away victorious this weekend.