This one is for all the marbles.
This weekend, Penn women’s squash heads Princeton to compete in the College Squash Association National Team Championship. For the Quakers (11-1), their momentum is impressive, as they’ve secured nine straight wins to finish off their regular season.
“I think that the team is very confident, and I think that wins have contributed to that,” coach Jack Wyant said. “I also think that the intensity level in practice has ramped up, and that is as much of [the team’s] doing as it is mine.”
Part of what has made practices so intense is the strength of the team’s upper echelon. Sophomore Reeham Salah closes out her regular season 12-0 as the Quakers’ No. 1 player. Just as impressive, junior No. 2 Melissa Alves also posted an undefeated regular season, notching ten wins. But while the established veterans of the team have impressed, Wyant is quick to give credit to the rest of his lineup for making their recent wins so decisive.
“I am really pleased with the progress of the freshmen; they’ve grown up a lot this year,” Wyant said. “The returning players all have a sense of what it takes to compete college squash and the freshmen have done a great job learning that. They don’t really get a chance to ease into the team.”
Penn will start their opening match of the draw against Cornell, the team that the Red and Blue faced most recently on their schedule. If that’s not reassuring for Penn, add in the fact that the Quakers beat the Big Red 9-0. Still, Wyant is clear to point that this weekend is still a new tournament.
”Overall, the score line against Cornell looked decisive, but if you look into the individual match scores there were a lot of close games,” the seventh-year coach pointed out. “It will be a good test to start out, and obviously we feel comfortable as favorites in that match.”
While the Quakers’ previous record means nothing, the team has scored wins against all of the teams entered in the draw except one: Harvard. The Crimson enters the tournament as the number one seed and the only team to take down the Red and Blue, beating them 7-2 back in January. But this Penn team is even better than they were back in January.
“Obviously we didn’t intend to lose to Harvard, but that served as a great motivator the rest of our season,” Wyant said, “Right now, we’re just excited to get to Princeton and start matches.”
Whether or not Penn women’s squash is poised to take home the title isn’t a lock, but one thing is for sure.
These girls are on fire.