If revenge is a dish best served cold, it’s worth checking the forecast for Boston this weekend.
With the mercury ever falling, Penn women’s squash will be looking to finish the season on a high note at the CSA National Team championships.
At the courts in Cambridge, the Quakers (7-6, 3-4 Ivy) have an uphill battle in store should they wish to hoist the storied Howe Cup. Entering the competition as the No. 7 seed, steep competition awaits them at every turn, including Friday’s opener against archrival Princeton. The last time these two met, the No. 2 seeded Tigers (13-1, 6-1) claimed the 6-3 victory, although, this time around, coach Jack Wyant has other plans.
“Monday was off and we had two really good days of practice. We’ve really been focusing more on what we need to do rather than what they’re gonna do,” said Wyant. “Really our goal for this weekend is to put in a good performance against Princeton on Friday, and try to improve on our seeding.”
This match is underscored by a sense of redemption, stemming from a disappointing season record and Penn's lowest Howe Cup seeding in years. Interestingly, January’s battle with Princeton was just one of many recent matches where the top three players' victories were in vain, as the middle of the ladder seemed to fall just short.
Recognizing the bad luck that forced his hand, Wyant explained the rationale behind the four through nine spots collectively having only two winning records between them on the year.
“The squad was very young, so we didn’t have much margin for error. That and the lack of a couple starters [Rowaida Attia and Jess Davis] who would have been in the middle of our lineup forced younger team members to play in other positions,” Wyant said. “We probably best top three in the country, at least in my book. When you get past number three we may have some people playing in a position that’s one or two slots higher than I would prefer.”
This restructured ladder and a few narrow losses have relegated the squad to its worst record since the 2004-2005 season. Of course, this lends itself perfectly to a chance for redemption on the biggest stage. However Penn fares on Friday, they will play the corresponding finisher in the No. 3 Trinity-No. 6 Columbia matchup on the following day.
“Everyone is excited for this weekend. Whether we win or lose on Friday, we’re gonna get an opportunity to beat a team we lost to in the regular season. That’s what we’re most excited about,” Wyant said.
Having fallen to the Lions (9-5, 4-3) by a score of 2-7 and the Bantams (13-2, 6-0 NESCAC) at 4-5 earlier this campaign, the path to the finals will not be an easy one. With the eight best teams in the nation vying for just one title, the Red and Blue will need to leave everything on the court should they wish to rewrite their own story.
Discussing the future of the program, Wyany hopes his underclassmen, which comprise two-thirds of the starting lineup, take away more than just a win from this weekend.
“I want them to be hungry for next year. If there’s one thing the seniors have brought to the program, it’s a real dedication to excellence,” Wyant said. “If they taught us anything, it’s that we as a program expect to be at or near the top, and that’s something we’re gonna work towards — not only this weekend, but also the offseason and next year.”
With this in mind, Penn will be shipping up to Boston with something to prove. In an otherwise unremarkable year, Wyant will look to his underclassmen for the breakout performances needed to upstage the favorites and bring a title back to Philadelphia.