You know all about Penn men’s and women’s basketball’s performances at the inaugural Ivy League tournament this weekend, but those teams were far from the only Red and Blue squads competing over a jam-packed spring break. With nearly every spring sport in action, Penn Athletics saw some major accomplishments:
Perhaps the story of spring break is the performance of Penn wrestling, which had a fantastic weekend at the EIWA Championships. Though the team’s score was well short of knocking off powerhouse and eventual champion Cornell, the Quakers saw some seriously impressive individual performances led by Frank Mattiace, who became EIWA individual champion in the 197 pound weight class — Penn’s first EIWA champion in any weight class since Micah Burak in 2013. Beyond Mattiace’s historic effort, the Quakers also saw Casey Kent at 174, Joe Heyob at 184, May Bethea at 157 and Brooks Martino at 165 all qualify for the NCAA Championships taking place March 16-18.
Speaking of individual champions, Penn fencing added a pair at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships this weekend. On the men’s side, sophomore epee Justin Yoo went back-to-back, securing his second individual title event in as many years with a 10-1 record in his marquee event. For the women, freshman saber Sara Papp took home first in her event with a 9-2 mark, giving the Red and Blue a pair of champions. Overall, the men’s squad qualified six for NCAA Championships and the women secured five of their own, giving both teams a chance to place highly in the national tournament.
Not to be outdone, Penn gymnastics had its own record-breaking performance on Sunday afternoon. Though the team had a disappointing Senior Meet the week prior, finishing in last place with a mediocre 191.475 score, the Temple Quad Meet saw a major breakthrough to give the team key momentum heading into next week’s ECAC Championships. Boosted by a school record 49.200 team score on bars — led by insane scores of 9.900 from Kyra Levi and 9.925, the No. 2 mark in school history, from Emma Cullen — the Red and Blue put up a team score of 193.95, their highest in any meet since February 2013. The Quakers ended up barely taking second place to Temple in the four-team competition.
While wrestling and fencing took home some individual glory, Penn squash came up agonizingly short of doing the same at the CSA Individual Championships. After entering the tournament with an unblemished 15-0 record in individual matches, No. 1 seed Reeham Salah was already heavily favored in the women’s bracket. The pressure was only further exacerbated by the withdrawal of presumptive No. 2 seed Sabrina Sohby of Harvard. But while Salah did make it all the way to the national championship match, she was stunned by Harvard freshman Gina Kennedy, who had also defeated Penn’s Marie Stephan in the national semifinal. The tournament did bring a silver lining to Penn, though — junior Melissa Alves, who didn’t compete, wound up finishing the year as the nation’s lone undefeated player to have primarily played her matches in the top three slots.
Going back into the team sports, Penn women’s lacrosse started things off with its home opener against Cornell — a rematch of last year’s Ivy League tournament championship game, which the Big Red won. Unfortunately, the Red and Blue couldn’t get revenge in the highly anticipated rematch, as Cornell took a 10-4 win to give Penn its first loss and move atop the Ancient Eight standings. The Quakers did respond with comfortable non-conference victories over Lehigh and Georgetown, though, and still hold an impressive 4-1 record and No. 12 national ranking.
As for the men, they had their own incredibly hyped spring break showdown when they traveled to State College to take on No. 5 Penn State in a matchup of undefeated in-state rivals. Unfortunately, the then-No. 8 Quakers came up just short of their second straight upset after topping then-No. 6 Virginia the week prior, falling 14-13 in an epic contest. The rest of the week was pretty rocky for the Red and Blue, as they topped Navy 11-9 before being upset by unranked Michigan 13-12 to fall to 3-2 on the year.
Meanwhile, a quintet of Penn teams joined the majority of the school’s student body by heading south to compete. Baseball opened its season with its annual spring break trip to Florida, where the team struggled against competition that had already been shaking off the rust for several weeks, finishing with a 2-7 record. The team did take two of three games against Fairfield to get its first series win of the year, led by a complete game shutout by senior pitcher Mike Reitcheck in an 8-0 victory. And based on recent history, the wins and losses in Florida should be no big deal — in each of coach John Yurkow’s first three seasons at Penn, the team had gone 0-6, 1-7 and 2-6 during its Florida trips, respectively, before finishing in the top half of the Ivy League in all three seasons.
Penn softball saw eerily similar results in its own Florida venture, handing a ridiculously busy slate that saw the Quakers play ten games against ten different teams. Led by the consistent offensive production of Leah Allen (15 hits and .639 slugging) and the dominant pitching of fellow senior Alexis Sargent (3-3, 2.79 ERA), the Red and Blue salvaged a 4-6 record against the strong southern competition, most notably including a 3-2 upset over South Florida in which Sargent pitched a complete game.
Over on the tennis courts, both Penn’s men’s and women’s squads had their own dominant weeks in Florida. The men ended up going 5-1 over a busy week, topping Drexel in a local rivalry matchup before winning four of five matches down south, with the lone loss coming to No. 25 Tulane. As for the women, they came up agonizingly short of pulling off an upset over No. 26 FIU in a brutal 4-3 defeat, but they immediately responded by finishing the job in a dominant 5-2 win over No. 36 Florida State, giving the Quakers the signature win they were looking for.
And finally, in South Carolina, Penn men’s golf saw the highly-anticipated debut of interim coach Michael Blodgett at the Colleton River Collegiate in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the results didn’t meet the hype entering the tournament, as Penn took last place out of 11 strong teams in the tournament. Providing a bright spot, junior Carter Thompson did take 18th place individually across the 11 schools with a +10 score over three days.
Needless to say, it was a busy period for the Red and Blue in more places than just the Palestra. And though Penn women’s basketball is prepared to embark on its March Madness run, it’s clear that spring season is fully underway.
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