Home sweet home — except when even your home games are away.
With the current reconstruction of the Ringe Courts this season, Penn squash has been practicing and playing home matches at Drexel’s Kline & Specter Squash Center. Despite the change in venue, the expectations for the teams are as high as ever, and the results thus far have shown as much; the men have jumped out to an 8-0 start with the women playing at a 6-1 clip.
“It has been such a positive experience for us,” men's coach Gilly Lane said.
In fact, the opportunity to play at Drexel may even be helping Penn improve from last season. The old courts at Ringe gave the Quakers a home-court advantage, but according to Lane, the team often struggled when playing on the road.
“Our old facility, it was hot, it was bouncy, it was almost like playing racquetball on a squash court. [Drexel’s] courts play so true and have actually helped us adapt to playing on the road,” Lane said. “In the past we weren’t great at playing on the road, and we always played really well at home. I think [playing at Drexel] is helping us adjust to playing at courts all over the country.”
This change in the “warmth” or bounce of the courts has changed the way the teams have had to play. According to the coaches, however, this change is for the better, as it allows the Quakers to use their skill and shot placement techniques.
“These courts lend themselves to more shot-making and skillful play. … The game on our old courts was more attritional; this can be a bit more attacking,” women’s coach Jack Wyant said.
All this does not necessarily mean the transition was made without any challenges. As a result of the increased distance from campus and decreased time on the court, the coaches have had to make some adjustments to their typical routine.
“The boys have a longer walk to get to practice, so we need to make sure to plan ahead so they can get the treatment that they need. … Having a shorter amount of time to practice and not having access to the facility all the time makes the guys utilize practice time. … That hour and a half is always to the best of their ability,” Lane said.
“We are guests," Wyant said. "We need to be on our best behavior. At our old gym, Ringe, we loved it. It was ours, but it was like a little clubhouse where we could do whatever we wanted.”
While it might be frustrating acting as guests in Drexel’s facility, Wyant is still able to see the positives for both his team and the Philadelphia squash community as a whole.
“One of the benefits of being here this year is that we have a much deeper relationship with Drexel," he said. "They will always be our inner-city rival … [but] our sport is social, and after college it's a great way to meet people, so it's been great seeing the teams get to know each other.”
While the teams have certainly found a home away from home at Drexel, the coaches did not mince words when it comes to their excitement about returning to Penn’s new facility.
“Words can’t describe how excited we are, this has been a project ten years in the making when we really started thinking about it," Wyant said. "It's going to be among the best facilities in the country. We’ve loved our time at Drexel, but we are excited to get into the new digs.”
With another successful season underway and a new home in the works, Penn squash certainly has a lot to look forward to, but the growth the team has experienced during its time at Drexel should not be ignored.