Most of the time, Penn sports aren't in the national spotlight. Don't tell that to Penn men's squash, though.
As of Jan. 22, the Quakers are No. 1 in the nation. Coach Gilly Lane, who is entering his third season at the helm after graduating from Penn in 2007, has transformed the Quakers into a national squash powerhouse.
Led by Lane's squash savvy and a bevy of talented players including sophomore All-American Andrew Douglas and freshman Aly Abou Eleinen, the Red and Blue are a perfect 8-0 heading into February. This includes impressive wins against No. 7 Yale, No. 4 St. Lawrence, and No. 5 Rochester.
Lane's coaching philosophy is a big reason for the Quakers' undefeated record this year.
“I think first and foremost we are not focused on winning; we're just focused on improving every day," Lane said. “The goal of the team is to make sure we're continuing getting better every day and focusing on the process and not the results."
Lane also stressed that the team's camaraderie and togetherness has been instrumental in their success, which is in line with the season's slogan: “Better Together."
“This is one of the closest teams I've ever been a part of. These guys care about each other on and off the court, push each other, motivate each other, and have each other's backs," Lane said. “The seniors have done a great job leading by example by drawing on past experiences, allowing for the underclassmen to grow. We couldn't be happier about how this team's come together."
Lane stresses that they're trying to improve on the little things day in and day out.
“You know it's focusing on the little things, the little details. We're all about making progress every day, making sure that we're putting each player in the right position to succeed in each and every match," Lane said. “I think each player on this team has bought in to the fact that the results will take care of themselves if we do the appropriate things on and off the court. In the past, we've been too results-oriented. This year, we've really tried to make sure we're preparing the right way: focusing on the process and not the result."
Three freshmen — Aly Abou Eleinen, James Flynn, and Michael Mehl — have been undefeated this season. As a whole, the team has only lost eight matches, and eight of their players haven't dropped a match all season.
Eleinen echoed Lane's coaching philosophy and also expressed his appreciation of the coaching staff.
“We've had a great start to the season so far, and it feels really good coming in as a freshman and winning all our matches. It definitely gives us a lot of confidence," Eleinen said. “I think we all have faith in each other and we all work really hard. Obviously the coaches make it so easy for us cause they're always there for us on and off the court."
Nonetheless, they're not letting their feet off the gas pedal.
“In my opinion, yes, we have had quite a bit of success throughout the semester and throughout the year so far," Mehl said. “I don't think that it's done until the season's done. We still have a lot of matches ahead, and like I said it's not done until the season's done."
The women's team has had a lot of success early this season as well. The Quakers started 5-0 and are now 6-1, with three top-10 wins over No. 4 Stanford, No. 9 Drexel, and No. 10 Brown. This is nothing new for the Red and Blue, however, as they have now won at least six of their first seven matches in four of the last five seasons.
Penn's dominance has attracted the attention of the squash world. Even with a stacked 2023 recruiting class, Lane has his sights set on building for the future.
Expectations will be high for the Quakers in the near future. For now, though, the Quakers are just focused on the process.