After becoming the No. 1 ranked team in the nation for the first time in school history this past week, Penn men’s squash was hoping for another major feat on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, they came up a few points short.
Penn men’s and women’s squash were both in action on Saturday as they hosted doubleheaders against Trinity and Colby.
On the men’s side, the Red and Blue (9-1, 2-0 Ivy) first faced off against a Trinity (10-1) team that is arguably the best squash program in the country. Although the Bantams were ranked below Penn, they have won 17 of the last 20 national titles. The Quakers hadn’t defeated Trinity since 1996, but it looked like this might be their chance.
The crowd was rowdy early on at Drexel's Kline & Specter Squash Center, where Penn faithful squeezed in and stood on their tiptoes just to get a glimpse of the action. They were rewarded almost immediately.
In the first shift, freshman Aly Abou Eleinen continued his torrid play and got the Red and Blue on the board with a dominant 3-0 victory at No. 2. Senior Karim Tarek then extended the lead to 2-0 for the Quakers with a thrilling 3-0 win at No. 6.
“Aly won 11-2, 11-4, 11-2. He really made a statement. He’s continued his undefeated season which has been fantastic, and he’s just been incredible all year,” coach Gilly Lane said. “Karim had a really gutsy performance at No. 6, and he showed some experience in that match as a senior and played the big points well.”
Although freshman James Flynn and junior Wil Hagen fell at No. 4 and No. 8, respectively, the Red and Blue entered the second shift deadlocked with Trinity at 2-2.
At No. 5, freshman Michael Mehl lost a hard-fought match in four games, and the Bantams took the lead, 3-2. But Penn’s star at No. 1, sophomore Andrew Douglas, turned in a masterful performance to even the match at 3-3. Douglas defeated Trinity’s Kush Kumar by a score of 3-1.
“Andrew is something special,” Lane said. “To be able to grind out a 3-1 win to get us a point when we needed it the most, that’s an impressive effort.”
After Penn sophomore Yash Bhargava fell in three games, Trinity went ahead by a score of 4-3. With just two matches left, the Red and Blue needed wins from junior David Yacobucci at No. 3 and senior Jonathan Zeitels at No. 9.
Zeitels split the first two games before capturing the third, 16-14, with a gutsy performance. Almost simultaneously, Yacobucci rallied from 2-1 down to win the fourth game, 14-12. The crowd was buzzing, sensing that Penn could pull off the victory.
However, it wasn’t meant to be, as both Quakers fell in the fifth and final game of their matches.
“We have a young team, and we need to go through some of those tough tests in order to produce some scars that are going to help us later in the year,” Lane said. “We don’t worry about winning and losing; we’ve talked about that from day one. But it was a great learning experience for a young team that has a lot of potential.”
The women (7-2, 1-1) were also unable to find victory over Trinity, as they lost by a score of 8-1. The Red and Blue fell behind early and were never able to recover.
Senior Reeham Sedky provided the lone point for the Quakers, as she swept Sahari Lopez, the Bantams' No. 1, in three games. Lopez, a talented freshman who hadn’t lost a match all season, was no match for Sedky, who put on an incredible display of the power and touch.
Later in the evening, the men’s team took on Colby (3-9) and rolled to a 9-0 win. Eleinen extended his unbeaten streak, and the Quakers collectively only dropped two games to the Mules.
Similarly, on the women’s side, the Quakers handled Colby (3-10) with ease. Sedky dropped just one point in her 3-0 victory. Junior Jessica Davis bounced back from an earlier loss in dominating fashion, 3-0. The rest of Penn’s lineup similarly swept through Colby, not dropping a single game.
Both teams will be back in action on Wednesday when they travel to Princeton. According to Lane, that game has nothing but their full focus.
“It’s Penn-Princeton,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything more to say than that.”