For a Penn squash program anticipating a major postseason, it’s the last chance to tune up.
This weekend, both the men’s and women’s teams will take on the final two matches of their regular seasons, facing Columbia and Cornell to wrap up Ivy League play.
For the men (7-5, 3-2 Ivy), the conference doubleheader will give the team an opportunity to rebound from last week’s 7-2 loss to Yale.
“Playing on the road in the Ivy League is tough,” coach Gilly Lane said about the Yale match. “Especially playing against the defending national champion. Overall we just weren’t able to match them at the big points.”
On Friday, Penn will visit Columbia, while on Sunday, Penn will host Cornell. Both matches will be crucial as the team prepares for the upcoming Ivy championships held at Harvard starting on February 17.
No. 6 Penn comes into the match against No. 3 Columbia (9-2, 4-1) as underdogs, having already to lost to all of the other four top-five teams this season. Friday’s matchup could show whether Penn has improved since these earlier losses.
No. 11 Cornell (6-8, 1-4) will be Penn’s last test before the team championships. Yet finishing the Ivy League season strong is not the only motivation the team has heading into the weekend.
“Last year Cornell beat us 5-4,” explained coach Lane. “So I think a bunch of the guys are excited to get revenge.”
While the team did lose in its last outing in New Haven, there were some bright spots.
“Hayes Murphy continued the great season that he’s had, winning 3-0,” noted coach Lane. “Jonathan Zeitels also came through with a pretty big 3-1 win.”
Penn will need Murphy to keep playing at the top of his game this weekend. Murphy is a team best 10-2 on the season, and was one of only two Quakers to win against Yale last week.
Meanwhile, Penn’s women’s squash comes into this weekend’s matches undefeated since on January 14. Since then, the team has won seven straight contests, including back-to-back 9-0 victories over Brown and Yale last weekend.
“Our goal is to head into the postseason with only one blemish on our record,” coach Jack Wyant said. “We want to keep the momentum going; we have been playing really well over the past month or so.”
No. 2 Penn (9-1, 4-1) will be favorites to win against both No. 8 Columbia (6-5, 2-3) and No. 7 Cornell (8-4, 3-2). Winning both Ivy League matchups would provide a huge boost of confidence for the team before the Ivy championships. Key performances from the team’s top players, including undefeated superstars Reeham Salah and Melissa Alves, will be necessary to get the job done this weekend.
"[Salah] has been absolutely vital this season, ranked No. 1 in intercollegiate squash, and has really dedicated herself to improving as much as possible,” Wyant said. “And Alves has balanced being captain with focusing on her own game, which is no easy task.”
Though Columbia and Cornell cannot be overlooked, the Quakers can’t help but start to think about the team championships somewhat.
“We have the opportunity, because we have one weekend off, to work a little bit more on our fitness before the tournament, where we will have to play consecutive matches,” Wyant explained.
After this weekend, both teams should have a clearer idea of where they stand heading into the team championships. And if all goes as planned, no foe will want to have any part of either squad in the Ivy postseason and beyond.