This weekend, Penn men’s and women’s squash proved that they’re the best in Pennsylvania.
On Sunday, the men beat No. 11 Drexel by a score of 6-3 and the women beat the No. 7 Dragons, 5-4, to win the PA State Championship. This was the third year in a row that the women have captured the title.
Last weekend, both teams played in the Ivy Scrimmages, a warm up for their first official matches of the season.
“There were some specific tactical things that we needed to work on coming out of the scrimmage, and I think that the women did a great job addressing those this week,” women’s coach Jack Wyant said. “The attitude’s always been positive with this group, but it was especially good this week.”
The weekend’s competition began on Saturday, when both teams faced Dickinson. They would need to beat the Red Devils in order to play in the Championship finals, which they did with ease.
Neither the men (2-0) nor the women (2-0) dropped a game against Dickinson (0-2), guaranteeing them a title shot on Sunday. They would face the winner of the matchup between Franklin and Marshall and Drexel, which ended up being the Dragons.
On Saturday, five of the men’s starting nine were freshmen, many of them playing their first collegiate match.
“I think it’s always the nerves in that first match of your career, and I thought that the freshmen performed extremely well. To have five freshmen in the starting nine today was great,” men’s coach Gilly Lane said. “It definitely gives them more experience and allows them to push forward.”
Notably absent from the Ivy Scrimmages and Saturday’s matches was junior Andrew Douglas. Douglas has received international recognition for his skills, winning gold at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru this past summer.
Lane wanted to give some of the younger players a chance to develop some of the experience that Douglas has already acquired on the court.
“We’re very fortunate to have a lot of depth on this team, and one of the things we pride ourselves in is working very hard at practice and providing opportunities to people that work extremely hard,” Lane said. “Andrew is the leader of the pack, he’s our No. 1 player, he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around. ... Given our depth, we were able to really give people opportunities to get those experiences.”
On Sunday, though, Douglas rejoined the starting nine, playing senior Lucas Rousselet from Drexel. Douglas fell behind by a score of 2-0 but came all the way back and won the remaining three games to take the victory.
Freshman Saksham Choudhary, who has not dropped a game yet this season, won the first match of the day for the Quakers. Freshman Dillon Huang also won his match for the Quakers in four games.
Sophomore Aly Abou Eleinen, who had an impressive first season last year, lost in three games to the Dragons’ Matias Knudsen.
The women were also victorious on Sunday but by a closer margin than the men. The Quakers started off the day down 4-2. However, they were able to turn their day around and eke out a win over the Dragons.
“They were just really excited to get going and to compete for real, to play a match where, at the end of it, there will be a win on your record or a loss,” Wyant said.
Junior Haley Scott and freshman Navmi Sharma earned the Red and Blue’s first two wins of the day, putting Penn in the lead by a score of 2-1. However, Drexel quickly surged ahead, winning three games to bring the score to 4-2. Penn would need to win all three of its next matches to come out on top.
The Quakers did just that. Freshman Amina Abou El Enin, whose older sister Jamila also plays for the Red and Blue, snatched a win in only three games. Junior captain Julia Buchholz managed to win in five games.
In the final match for the women, the pressure was on freshman Ashley Manning. Manning had easily won all three of her games on Saturday, and the Quakers were depending on her to achieve a similar result on Sunday. Manning pulled through for the team: Her five-game triumph earned Penn the title of PA State Champions.
The men are currently ranked third and the women eighth nationally. However, the women will face No. 4 Stanford this Friday, which will put their skills to the test once again.