The Penn men's and women's squash teams go into the winter break having two somewhat distinct experiences to start their seasons.
On the women’s side, the Quakers (2-0) have done nothing but dominate. They began the competitive match season with a match against George Washington. To say it went well would probably still be short-selling the women’s performance, considering they did not give up a single game to the Colonials – who at the time of the match were ranked 13th in the nation. Later that same day, the Red and Blue took on Virginia, and took care of them in a similarly decisive fashion. The women won this match 8-1, with the loss coming in the No. 9 position.
It is an extremely encouraging start for a team with its sights set on revenge. Last season ended in heartbreaking fashion, as the women were just one game away from a national championship in the Howe Cup. The thrilling final match at the No. 3 position went Harvard’s way, giving them their second championship in a row.
On January 14th, after nearly two months off from matches, the No. 2 Quakers will take on the No. 1 Crimson with a chance to get payback against the team that dealt the Red and Blue such brutal heartbreak last season.
With vengeance in mind, the women’s team will continue to work to get to the top, with sophomore star Reeham Salah even getting some extra preparation as she played alongside Harvard's Sabrina Sobhy with Team USA in the Women’s World Team Championships. For Salah's Penn team as a whole, the season has gotten off to an ideal start, and the long break affords the Quakers the opportunity to mentally and physically prepare themselves for the Crimson – undoubtedly the most important match of the 2016-2017 season.
For the men, their season has gotten off to a bit of an up-and-down start. After shutting out George Washington and Virginia, the No. 6 Quakers (3-2) then took two hard losses against Drexel, in a close 5-4 match, and No. 3 Rochester, in a 7-2 match, over the course of four days. The men went into their match against No. 4 St. Lawrence the next day with nothing to lose and everything to gain — and gain they did. The Red and Blue pulled out a clutch 5-4 victory on the back of junior Marwan Mahmoud’s thrilling 3-2 victory at the No. 1 position.
Senior captain BG Lemmon was no doubt pleased with the win, but was quick to add that the team still has a lot of work to do to get where they want to be.
“It’s obviously reassuring in terms of rankings and whatnot to have this win under our belt, but we still have a lot of goals on our mind, and that’s where it really starts: when the Ivy League season begins,” Lemmon said.
Before they can start their campaign in the Ivy League, the men must first challenge Trinity, the top ranked team in the nation, where the Quakers will look to play spoiler again. Following that, league play starts on January 14th against Harvard. Last season, for the first time since 1979, Penn took down the Crimson, and the Quakers believe that they can carry this momentum they have into these matches.
Moving forward, coach Gilly Lane expressed great confidence in the team. Reflecting on the team’s challenging recent five-day stretch, he said: “The thing I’m most proud about is that the guys stayed present… they’re not dwelling on the past. They’re moving forward and they’re looking forward to being as successful as they can be.”