All’s well that ends well. For Penn squash, both the men and women can certainly agree, having each picked up a final win to cap their regular seasons.
On the women’s side, the No. 2 Quakers (11-1, 6-1 Ivy) wrapped up a phenomenal regular season with a pair of dominant wins this weekend against Columbia and Cornell. On the road Friday evening, Penn dispatched the No. 8 Lions (6-6, 3-4) at love, and then again when hosting the No. 7 Big Red (8-6, 3-4) Sunday afternoon, the scoreboard showed a zero for the visitors.
Another stellar outing, the pair of sweeps marks the team’s fourth consecutive 9-0 win, and its sixth of the season. Masterfully, sophomore ace Reeham Salah finished the regular season at 11-0, not having dropped a single game, while junior Melissa Alves ended up at 10-0 and senior Michelle Wong stretched her winning streak to eight matches over the weekend.
Reflecting on the final weekend of the regular season, coach Jack Wyant was filled with pride.
“It was a great weekend, though really long. The Friday-Sunday split is relatively new in our sport, and it’s pretty draining,” Wyant said. “I’m very happy for the team, and for the seniors to finish 11-1, making this either the best or second-best season we’ve ever had, the last 13 years. I’m very proud of the result, and them because of how the team has come together as a group. I’m excited to have the opportunity to train for the next week and a half before team nationals.”
The next challenge that awaits the team will be those very CSA Nationals, hosted at Princeton this year, which will force the team to dig deep one more time as it looks for redemption from last year’s .
“It’s kind of the same situation as last year. We had an incredible season as well but this isn’t the end. We have nationals in two weeks, so that’s our last big push. We just have to keep going,” Wong said.
Now winning its ninth straight match, some might worry about overconfidence going into the postseason, but senior Anaka Alankamony assures her team has the right mentality.
“For [No. 1] Harvard [in January], we were looking very hopeful, and we prepared ourselves well, but then we , which was a bit devastating,” she said. “We’ve worked hard since, and we’re taking that work ethic into nationals, where Harvard and Trinity are probably going to be our biggest competitors, and we know how good they are.”
Wyant shared his players’ excitement for the upcoming matches following senior day, adding, “It’s great because we have a postseason to look forward to. It’s not farewell just yet.”
For the men (8-5, 4-3), the weekend was only half as sweet, concluding with a Friday-Sunday split. Up in New York City, Penn fell to No. 3 Columbia (11-2, 6-1) in a close battle at 6-3, but then back in Philadelphia, it promptly greeted No. 11 Cornell (6-10, 1-6) with an 8-1 defeat. This season’s best formers have been junior Hayes Murphy at 11-3, sophomore Jonathan Zeitels with a record of 11-2, and junior ace Marwan Mahmoud rounding off at 9-4.
Coach Gilly Lane felt that the team did an excellent job of rebounding mentally and physically for the regular season finale.
“It’s a tough stretch. It’s the only time this year we have that Friday-Sunday schedule. I’m really proud of the boys and the way they turned things around,” Lane said. “I thought we had a great effort at Columbia. It’s definitely a tough place to play, so it was nice to come home today. The boys played some nice rallies today against a team that’s fit, hungry, and knocking on the door of top-eight. Today we played the bigger points better.”
With nationals next up at Harvard, Lane is working to prepare his team for the rigorous battles ahead with nation’s top teams.
“I challenged the guys Friday night after the Columbia match saying, each player had to look at himself in the mirror and decide what they needed to do to improve,” he said. “I think they did that for sure and we’re going to ride this win, and hopefully bring that into Friday.”
Reflecting on senior day, he pointed out BG Lemmon and Rahil Fazelbhoy as really catalyzing Penn’s rise to greatness.
“This is the class that really turned it around. The year before they came, the team was No. 14 in the country, and they weren’t the most heralded recruiting class. But they put the work in, and decided that they wanted to be great,” Lane said. “BG and Rahil stuck in four years and have played incredibly well and were great leaders for this program. So to go out on a win for their last home matches is great.”
With the regular season now in the rearview mirrors, past successes are pushed aside with the focus solely on the next chapter — the CSA Nationals.
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