The opening of the new Ringe Squash Center has spurred debate on campus. Regardless of the issue of its accessibility to students, it is undeniable that the Ringe Center will greatly benefit the Penn squash program in a variety of ways.
The new courts will give Penn the opportunity to host the College Squash Association Individual Championships at the end of the collegiate season in March. The tournament marks the transition from team play to individual play, as athletes must qualify to play in the tournament based on their season ranking.
The process of determining who will host the CSA Individuals, as well as other big tournaments, is a decision that has not frequently included Penn.
“All of the schools bid for it, and historically, it’s been rotated around Harvard, Princeton, Trinity, and Yale just based on the sheer number of courts,” Penn men’s squash coach Gilly Lane said. “We’re excited that CSA chose us to host, as we have this brand new, gorgeous facility that we want to show off to the rest of the country.”
While the old Penn squash facilities offered 10 courts, only seven of which were actually useable for competition, the opening of the new Ringe Center provides 12 brand new courts, as well as a variety of other unique features.
“Having two proper four-wall show courts will give the CSA great opportunities in terms of the ability to play the men’s and women’s finals concurrently, which has never been done before,” women’s coach Jack Wyant said.
The new facilities also provide more extensive space for spectators to watch matches, and it allows for increased flexibility in scheduling play. In addition, the ability to host tournaments provides great visibility to the program as a whole.
The 2019 CSA Individual Championships were hosted by Brown in Providence, R.I. and the Red and Blue sent two players: now-graduated Reeham Sedky and current junior Andrew Douglas. Both players progressed to the semifinals, where they fell short of a title.
This year, knowing that the CSA Individuals will be on campus provides a significant home-court advantage to those who will compete.
“For someone like Andrew Douglas, who has a legitimate shot to win it, he gets to play on his own home court. The fact that he’ll be more familiar with every seam and every floorboard than anyone else who’s coming has to be worth — no one’s exactly quantified it — at least a couple of points," Wyant said. “So there is a slight competitive advantage."
While neither the men’s nor women’s individual champion of last year's tournament had a home-court advantage, neither coach could deny that there is a certain comfort and competitive edge when competing on familiar courts.
“Playing on these courts every day gives you a sense of comfort and is going to give the players who end up playing a sense of comfort as well,” Lane added.
The opening of the Ringe Squash Center will also open the door for Penn squash to host tournaments beyond the CSA Individuals that have not traditionally been hosted on campus. Tournaments such as the Howe Cup, which is an important marker of the program's success, now have the potential to be hosted by the Red and Blue.
“We’ve reached the [Howe Cup] final maybe three times at Yale and once at Princeton," Wyant said. “And the time at Princeton, we lost to Princeton on their courts. Not to say that that’s the reason we lost, but it's certainly advantageous."
Between Drexel’s courts, the new Ringe Center, and the impending opening of the $27 million Arlen Specter US Squash Center at the 32nd Street Armory, there will soon be no shortage of squash courts in the three square miles between Penn and Drexel. This allows not only Penn, but the Greater Philadelphia area, to be recognized as a destination squash city.
Penn will host a round of Ivy League scrimmages at the new courts this weekend, which will be the first competitive matches held on these courts.
The new courts will host the first competitive matches this weekend when will Penn host a round of Ivy League scrimmages.
The following week will mark the beginning of regular season play, as both the men's and women's teams start the season against Dickinson on Nov. 16. It will be just one of many opportunities this season for the Quakers to test out that new home-court advantage.