There’s no such thing as a day off. For Penn women’s squash, it will be heading out west to Stanford for what will be their fifth game in a one-week span.
The No. 2 Quakers (5-1, 1-1 Ivy) will be taking on the No. 5 Cardinal (3-1) this Sunday afternoon for what should be an excellent battle.
Penn is coming off a bit of a hot streak, toppling three of its four opponents this calendar year, with some very impressive wins mixed in. Despite falling to No. 1 Harvard to begin 2017, the Red and Blue rebounded quickly to dominate Dartmouth and Drexel and narrowly pull ahead over a third-ranked Trinity team. This excellent run of form has certainly impacted the players’ mindsets, according to ace sophomore Reeham Salah.
“I think [the team’s confidence] is pretty high, because we lost a few days ago to Harvard, but we showed everyone we can come back stronger, and that’s the mentality we’re going to have going into Stanford as well. They are a hard opponent but I think we just need to go in with full force and try our best,” she said.
Stanford will be coming in with a confidence of its own, having just swept Franklin and Marshall 9-0 last week and holding their own in the rankings. What is most interesting is that they will be hosting Harvard and Yale on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, perhaps bringing the fatigue factor to a more neutral level for both teams.
This game marks the last non-conference contest for Penn, as only Ivy opponents remain after Sunday for the remainder of the season. However, the Cardinal are certainly not to be overlooked, according to Coach Wyant, who recognizes their threat.
“Stanford has a great freshman recruiting class, so it’s gonna provide a tough test, because they are an extremely deep team,” Wyant said. “They are much better than they were last year. They’ll test us at the bottom of the ladder where we have some youth, so I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform at the back end.”
Salah added that the team is certainly taking its opposition seriously, irrespective of what conference they are from.
“We treat every game with equal importance," she said. "Like yesterday with Drexel, even though they aren’t that highly ranked, we still have the same mindset. We never want to belittle our opponents so every single match we treat like in-conference.”
With regards to difference-makers on the squad, whom might very well be called upon this weekend in California, she believes the match can be won in the heart of the ladder.
“The top of our lineup has been just about dominant the whole year and I think when middle of our lineup pulls through, we’re unbeatable,” Salah said. “Michelle Wong captured an amazing 3-2 victory against Trinity which really caused us to win the match. If the four, five, and six players on our team come away with wins, we all play with a lot more confidence.”
This 5000-mile round trip journey is by far the longest the team will be forced to travel this season, as all other destinations are within a reasonable drive. Though this might factor negatively into the team’s performance, given the jet lag and altered training schedule, Wyant assures that his team is more than prepared for this.
“I think that we definitely need to take care of ourselves, making sure that after we train tomorrow we spend a lot of time on recovery, stretching, icing, and so on. We have a strong team with a lot of talent, so I’m optimistic we’ll perform well this weekend,” he said.
Salah echoed her coach’s thoughts, adding that her teammates’ experiences help to mitigate these side effects.
“I think most of us are international, and for those of us that aren’t, we’re used to all that traveling from our junior career from going on tour,” she said. “We’re going to be accustomed to it and I think that’s an advantage of having such a diverse team. Logistics wise we’re going to be arriving Friday night and train that night and Saturday morning, but lightly and not too hard. Then Sunday is our big match.”
Although the rigor of this past week may have worn them down, the Quakers will look to use their confidence to fuel them to a fourth-straight victory on the Pacific coast.