After a long break from match play, Penn men's squash wouldn't be eased back into action by any means, returning to action with a home showdown against perennial powerhouse Trinity. Struggling to keep up with the depth and experience of the nation's top ranked team, the Red and Blue were defeated, 8-1.
The Quakers’ (3-3) last match, which took place over a month ago, was a confidence-boosting upset over then-fourth ranked St. Lawrence — but No. 1 Trinity (6-0) was an entirely different beast. Coming into this Sunday, the Bantams had only suffered three losses in individual matches. As Penn coach Gilly Lane candidly put it, the Bantams are “the best of the best in college squash.”
“We were looking to put together a good result," Lane added after the match, "and we wanted to see where we were in comparison to them."
Despite the scoreline, the performance put together by the Quakers was one that they could be proud of. Star junior Marwan Mahmoud won at the No. 1 position against Trinity freshman Kush Kumar, bringing his personal record to a perfect 6-0 on the year.
Freshman David Yacobucci took the first two games against experienced senior Affeeq Ismail, but unfortunately lost the last three by close margins at the No. 7 position. Junior Derek Hsue started his match against junior Ricky Penders at the No. 3 position strong with a 11-4 win, but lost the following three games. Senior captain BG Lemmon and sophomore Max Reed also put in strong efforts at the No. 9 and No. 8 positions respectively, but both fell in four games.
“Everyone went out there and looked to improve upon how they played in the last match against St. Lawrence," Lane said, satisfied with his team's performance despite the ultimate loss. "We just fell a little short to an experienced team today.”
With the non-conference matches mostly out of the way, the Quakers now have their sights firmly set on the Ivy League season. The first two tests come next weekend, with a conference doubleheader against No. 4 Harvard (1-0) on Saturday and No. 8 Dartmouth (2-3) on Sunday.
The key to success, according to coach Lane, will be to play better late in the games, so that the team can avoid the close losses that have plagued the Quakers throughout the season.
“We need to continue to work hard, and to play our best squash later in each individual game in order for us to be successful. Those little things are what wins matches, and those matches end up winning championships,” he stated.
The men’s squash team sits at .500 now, with the regular season roughly at the halfway mark. The record, while not ideal, is not Lane’s main concern.
“We play one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, and the reason we’ve done that is to prepare for weekends like this,” Lane said, referring to the upcoming Harvard-Dartmouth double header.
The Ivy League season, the most important part of the year, is about to begin for the Quakers. And for a Penn squad hungry to improve from last season's fifth-place finish, the mentality is quite simple, as Lane put it:
“We’re going to take it one match at a time.”