It may not have been the best start to Ivy League play, but Penn squash’s weekend was about on par with expectations.
Collegiate powerhouse Harvard and its travel partner Dartmouth came to the Ringe Squash Courts, and the Crimson rolled through the men and women on Saturday. Both Penn squads fared better on Sunday with 8-1 wins each over the Big Green, leading them to establish their positions high up in the Ivy League — just not above Harvard.
The women (3-1, 1-1 Ivy) lost to Harvard (4-0, 3-0), 7-2, but the contest was closer than the scoreline suggests. In fact, three Quakers fell in five sets after going up early — the same three competed in the No. 4 through No. 6 positions.
“We missed a great opportunity,” coach Jack Wyant said. “We had them at home, and we didn’t take advantage of it. We have to rebound.”
At the top of the ladder, however, sophomore Reeham Salah made quick work of archnemesis Sabrina Sobhy, beating her rival at the No. 1 spot in straight sets to seal one of two individual victories for Penn on the day. The win broke a long losing streak for Salah against Sobhy in collegiate play, something the Quakers’ talisman was glad to achieve.
“I’m happy. My performance today gives me more confidence,” Salah said. “My fitness has been really good. I’ve been working a lot, and it all comes down to fitness in the end.”
The other individual win for Penn came one spot below in the No. 2 position, when junior captain Melissa Alves got her team off to a fiery start in a heated five-setter. After winning the first two sets, Alves lost the third and the fourth. Then, down 7-4 in the fifth, the captain went down with an ankle injury, needing to halt play for several minutes. Despite leaving the match later in a boot, she battled through the remainder of the fifth to take the set 11-9, giving her team its first win of the day.
Another match of note for the Quakers came at the No. 3 spot, when junior captain Marie Stephan was handed the first regular season loss of her collegiate career. Stephan had a tough, feisty matchup with Harvard’s Kayley Leonard and lost in four sets.
On the next day against Dartmouth (1-4, 0-3), everyone but Salah played up a position — unfortunately for Alves, her ankle injury prevented her from playing on Sunday against Dartmouth, and so the rest of the lineup all played up a spot in her absence. That didn’t make much of a difference, however, as only one Quaker dropped a match in the 8-1 contest.
“[Alves] has struggled with some injuries, and we felt like we’d be okay without her,” Wyant said. “That was the case, and it worked out.”
Meanwhile, the men (4-4, 1-1) also beat No. 9 Dartmouth 8-1, but first lost to No. 4 Harvard (4-0, 3-0) by the same scoreline. Sophomore Karim Hussein in the No. 2 spot was the only one to eek out a win for the hosts, while everyone else fell to the Crimson — including the team’s top player, Marwan Mahmoud, whose perfect start to the season came to an end.
The tables turned on Sunday against Dartmouth (3-4, 1-2), when Hussein was the only Quaker to lose a match, and everyone else won, with most contests ending quickly in straight sets.
The men’s team can now rest until next weekend, but the women are still deep in the thick of four consecutive days of competition. Harvard and Dartmouth were just the first two matches, with Trinity and Drexel the latter two on Monday and Tuesday nights.
If they continue to perform to expectation, then they should have two more victories by next weekend.