Penn squash's first Ivy League matchups ended in mixed results.
Both the women and men were handily defeated 8-1 by both No. 1 Harvard teams on Saturday before rallying to pick up wins over Dartmouth on Sunday.
The No. 7 Penn women (5-2, 1-1 Ivy) largely struggled against the Crimson (4-0, 3-0), with the the team's only game win in the top four matches coming from sophomore Jamila Abou El Enin, who won her first game 11-8 against Harvard’s Amelia Henley.
Although Penn was dominated early, freshman Navmi Sharma put up an exciting fight against Harvard’s Madeleine Chai. Taking the first game 11-9, Sharma dropped the next game 11-2. After losing the third game 11-7, Sharma did not lose her composure. In the next game, Sharma pulled out a 12-10 win, setting up a final game. Sharma nearly ended up winning the match but was ultimately defeated 11-9 by Chai.
The Quakers' lone point of the day came from freshman Amina Abou El Enin, who defeated Harvard’s Grace Steelman in five sets. After taking a 2-0 lead with an 11-8 and 11-9 game wins, Steelman fought back with 11-9 and 11-8 wins to tie the set at 2-2. However, El Enin handily won the fifth game 11-5.
“I think the team’s spirit was fantastic. The No. 1 Harvard girl, who's English, is good friends with our No. 1 Jess Davis, who is also English, and she made a point to come up to Jess and say ‘Wow, it really looks like your team has great chemistry and camaraderie,’ and that was reflected over the weekend,” coach Jack Wyant said.
For the No. 3 Penn men (7-1, 1-1) , the story was largely the same.
The first few matches of the day were swept by Harvard (4-0, 3-0), and each game was won by a margin of at least three points. As the competition continued, however, the Quakers began to play on the same level.
Junior Yash Bhargava won his first game 8-11, but subsequently gave up the next at 11-9 and 11-7. However, the fourth game was a nail-biter — deadlocked with his opponent, Bhargava led the game to pass the normal eleven points. He was unable to prevail, however, dropping the game 13-11 and the match 3-1.
After another 3-0 Harvard victory, Penn freshman Saksham Choudhary defeated Julien Gosset in four games, the Quakers' only win of the day. Choudhary was able to take the first two games, dropped the third, but rebounded for an 11-9 victory in the fourth to win the match and continue his unbeaten streak.
“Saturday was a real eye-opener," coach Gilly Lane said. “They really showed why they are the No. 1 team in the country. They outplayed us in almost every way and we need to work on how we respond in those situations."
After their defeats, both teams headed to Hanover, N.H. hungry for a win.
The women’s team started slowly against the No. 11 Dartmouth (1-4, 0-3), dropping two early matches. Despite the faulty start, the Red and Blue kept their focus. In the next game, freshman Navmi Sharma took a 2-0 lead and sealed the victory in the fourth set with a 13-11 win.
Sharma's entertaining match sparked a Penn winning streak. The Red and Blue took the next five games, ending the match with a handsome 7-2 final tally. Although the Quakers achieved a strong win, their composure in high-stress situations was key to their success.
“A lot of games are 11-9, 11-8, 12-10, so if we can fine-tune some things and stay calm in those high-pressure moments, I think the girls will have success,” Wyant said.
The men also had success against No. 11 Dartmouth (1-4, 0-3), sweeping the Big Green for a 9-0 result. The Quakers started strong, with back-to-back 3-0 victories.
Freshman Dillon Huang had one of the most exciting matches of the day. Dropping the first and third games to Dartmouth’s James Bell by six points, he fought hard to avoid a defeat. After outlasting Bell to take the fourth set, 17-15, Huang rallied to win the fifth game 11-8 and maintain Penn’s perfection.
“I’m proud that the boys rebounded today. This road trip, Harvard and Dartmouth, is historically always a tough one and the Dartmouth team is always ready to play at home," Lane said.
Following these matchups, the Red and Blue have difficult battles coming up. Playing No. 2 Trinity next week and No. 4 Princeton the week after, both rival teams can use these two matches to prove and improve their rankings.