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Sophomore Andrew Douglas and the rest of Penn men's squash had the perfect balance of training and sightseeing on the team's recent trip to Europe.

Credit: Pauline Colas

It was a trip they won't soon forget.

The members of Penn men's squash had a unique chance to bond as a team over winter break while playing the sport they love and visiting cultural and historical landmarks in Europe. 

The squad's 10-day trip to Ireland and the Netherlands left the athletes plenty of time for sightseeing and practicing in professional facilities.

The team set out from Philadelphia for Dublin on Dec. 27, excited to embark on the cross-continental journey. 

Once the group landed, there was little time for rest. Their first stop was Sutton Lawn Tennis Club and a post-flight training session to keep the team in form. After the practice, the squad took the train into downtown Dublin to explore the city.

Each day's itinerary usually included a morning warm-up before the team had the chance to experience the country and culture.

The athletes explored the history of the Irish capital, hiked up nearby cliffs, and roamed the grounds of a 14th century castle. And of course, eating authentic Irish food was a must.

When the time had come to depart from Dublin Airport and travel to Amsterdam, the pack became one person larger, as freshman and defending U.S. Junior Open champion Aly Abou Eleinen linked up with the group. It was a special reunion for Eleinen, who also got to celebrate his 19th birthday with the team that night.

Just like in Ireland, the team had a lot to see in the Netherlands in addition to its daily training.

A guided tour of the Amsterdam canals gave the group a chance to see the city from a unique perspective, and other notable spots on the agenda included the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, as well as Johan Cruyff Arena — formerly Amsterdam ArenA — for the many soccer fans on the team.

Dutch food also did not disappoint, as the team ate its fair share of stroopwafels, a sweet dessert, over the course of the trip.

The training was rigorous, just like back home, but the team still found a way to make it entertaining. During tough core sessions at MeerSquash in the nearby city of Hoofddorp, Netherlands, the team would play the viral YouTube song "Baby Shark" as a way to work on different drills.

"It was something fun we added in, and the boys rallied around it," coach Gilly Lane said. "The song has now been in everyone's head for at least two weeks, but it's a reminder of how special the trip was."

If the team had any jet lag upon getting back, it didn't show. The Quakers had some time to recover from the journey before their road trip last weekend to No. 7 Yale and No. 15 Brown.

Despite the quality of their opponents, the Red and Blue swept the pair by scores of 7-2 and 9-0, respectively. Whether the trip had anything to do with the performance cannot be proven, but it certainly played a positive role in some of the players' minds.

"It made us depend a lot more on each other, which is good in the sense that you want to count on the people that are behind you," sophomore Andrew Douglas said.

The natural team bonding from the trip has only served to bring the group closer together. Currently 8-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country, the Quakers are in the midst of their best season in years.

Lane, who was a Penn squash senior in 2007, is proof that besides the team's record thus far, this season will no doubt be one the players won't soon forget.

"It's one of those experiences you're gonna remember for the rest of your life," he said. "I was fortunate to go as a player my senior year. My buddies and I, we still talk about that trip."

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