For many teams at Penn, there is one event that stands out over the others: The Ivy League championship.
It’s circled on the calendar. It’s yelled in the locker room. It’s posted up in the weight room.
Teams tirelessly work to be crowned as kings or queens of the Ancient Eight, and many succeed.
But others don’t get their storybook ending. The crown is never captured. The blood, sweat, and tears poured in, don’t get returned.
The losses that leave the longest-lasting scars are in the championships that almost were but never will be. Reaching the championship game. Being only a few points away. Having your opponent on the ropes.
Unfortunately, women’s squash felt the agony of such a defeat this past season.
Fresh off a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to No. 1 Harvard in the National Championship in 2016, the Red and Blue had the opportunity for a dreamlike comeback in 2017.
Led by eventual Ivy League Player of the Year, Reeham Sedky, the Quakers had revenge in their minds. The chance to avenge their defeat from the year before and capture immortal glory.
Penn. Harvard. A rematch for the National Championship. The stage was set. But the curtain never opened. The lights never came on.
Sadly, the match was over before it started. Harvard swept the first five matches and with it, the national championship for the second straight year.
However, one comeback attempt was nearly a success later in the year.
Penn women’s tennis got off to an 0-2 start in Ivy play before rallying to win its next three matches. The Quakers approached the last weekend of the season with a chance to capture the Ivy title.
In their way? Current top teams Dartmouth and Harvard.
Their task was simple: Win the next two matches and the championship was theirs.
Led by eventual first team All-Ivy selection Kana Daniel and a strong supporting cast of Lina Qostal and Ria Vaidya, the Quakers looked poised to pull off a comeback for the ages.
The Big Green looked, early on, to be well on their way to squashing the Red and Blue’s hopes. Dartmouth raced out to a 3-0 lead after capturing the doubles point and the first two singles matches.
But then the comeback was on.
The Red and Blue responded with two straight set victories from Marta Kowalska and Daniel en route to pulling the match to an even 3-3. However, it was not meant to be. In a back and forth battle, Vaidya lost the deciding match and Dartmouth won 4-3.
Though the Red and Blue defeated Harvard the following week, they were left to think what could have been.
Another team's title hopes were over before they started.
Though they weren't competing for a national title, Penn baseball had its best chance at an Ivy League title since 2007. After winning their division for the first time in ten years over a traditionally solid Columbia team, the Red and Blue had a showdown against Yale in the Ivy League Championship series.
Poised to make a run with a team filled with eventual draft picks, it seemed like the Quakers could make some noise. But Yale proved too dominant as the Red and Blue were swept in the championship series.
Another team left to think what could have been was sprint football.
The Red and Blue found themselves in a position to win yet another Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) title after their undefeated season last year.
In the first-ever CSFL championship game, Penn faced Army, who had dealt the Quakers their only loss of the season.
Army outplayed the Red and Blue in that first matchup. They look the lead and didn’t look back.
The championship game was a different story.
The Quakers controlled much of the game. They gained almost 300 yards on offense and held the Black Knights' scorching offense to just 132 yards.
But the most important stat of the evening was turnovers. And the Quakers had four, including a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
Despite being worse in nearly every offensive and defensive category, the Black Knights topped the Red and Blue by a score of 10-0.
A title from the previous season would seemingly sooth the burn of this loss. But true competitors are never satisfied.
The sting of defeat only ignites the flame of being more successful next year.