The finale of the squash season is upon us as No. 8 Penn prepares for the CSA team championships this weekend. The Quakers will be challenged right off the bat with a first round match Friday against No. 1 Trinity, who defeated Penn 8-1 in January.
For those unfamiliar with how the team championships work, the format is fairly simple. Only the top eight teams in the nation make it, with the teams seeded No. 1 through No. 8. As the bottom seed, Penn (8-5, 3-4 Ivy) draws the hardest first round match — Trinity (16-1, 6-0 NESCAC).
If the Quakers manage to pull off the historic upset there, they will face the winner of No. 4 Rochester University and No. 5 Saint Lawrence University. A second win would see Penn advance to the finals, where the Red and Blue could face No. 2 Harvard, No. 3 Columbia, No. 6 Drexel or No. 7 Yale.
A lot needs to happen for Penn to come away from the weekend with that coveted national title. For starters, Penn is 1-6 this season against the other seven teams, with the lone win coming against Saint Lawrence.
“There is not a lot of room for error when you play these teams,” coach Gilly Lane said about their opponents, “but with the underdog mindset that anything can happen, and a focus on taking it one point at a time, we have a shot.”
Penn will need some big performances from its best players in order to have a chance this weekend. Hayes Murphy, who has been excellent all year, will be looking to add to his 11 wins against Trinity on Friday. Marwan Mahmoud, the team’s No. 1 player, enters the weekend with a 9-4 record, and will be looking to hit double digit wins before the season is over.
But despite this year’s successes of the players at the top of the lineup, there’s one Red and Blue standout who’s proven himself on the national stage more than anyone.
“Ideally every player will give it their all this weekend, but one player I do not have to worry about is B.G Lemmon,” Lane said. “After going 3-0 at the team championships last season, I am sure he cannot wait to be back.”
Win or lose, the team championships will be the final opportunity for the senior class to play for the Red and Blue. No matter what happens this weekend, this class has enjoyed unprecedented success in its four years at Penn.
“You just have to look at the results,” Coach Lane said when asked about the seniors’ impact. “We had not beaten Harvard, Princeton, or Yale since 2006 when these kids first got here. Now Yale is the only school that remains on that list. They brought a new mentality to Penn squash that we are good enough to beat anybody, and they have worked tirelessly to make that a reality.”
This season, though, has been somewhat up and down for the team. After finishing last year ranked No. 5 — Penn’s highest final ranking since 2007 — there were high expectations for the team this season.
“It is hard to look at a full season and determine whether it was a success or not — we would rather look at it in parts,” Laine said. “There are definitely some matches we would like to have back, but there are also matches like the win at St. Lawrence that were very impressive.”
The team championships mark the conclusion on the season in terms of team play, but for a few Penn players, their season will continue into the beginning of March when the individual championships are held. In the meantime, the team is hoping for something special this weekend as it finishes a season full of hard work.