Penn men’s squash made history on Saturday, advancing to its first national championship match.
Penn men’s squash traveled to Boston this weekend to compete in the Potter Cup. Opening up with a strong 8-1 win over No. 6 Yale, the Red and Blue won a hard-fought victory against No. 2 Trinity, 6-3, to set themselves up for the final. However, the Quakers were ultimately unable to prevail, losing to No. 1 Harvard by a score of 6-1 in the final.
On Friday night, Penn (14-3, 6-1 Ivy) defeated Yale (9-8, 4-3). Having won by a 9-0 score in their match earlier this season, the Red and Blue continued their dominance over the Bulldogs. With freshman Dillon Huang winning in straight games and both senior Wil Hagen and junior Andrew Douglas only dropping a single game, the Quakers were on cruise control for the predominant part of this match.
Freshman Saksham Choudhary continued his perfect run, following the tradition of unbeaten freshmen that the team has enjoyed in the recent past. Although the Quakers did give up a game to Yale, sophomore James Flynn clinched the match with a 3-1 win.
The Red and Blue’s victory put them in position to take on Trinity (19-2). Having lost to Trinity, 6-3, in their previous matchup, the Red and Blue sought vengeance. Penn took all three matches in the first wave. Senior David Yacobucci and Huang’s two 3-2 wins in the first group of matches gave Penn the spark it needed to win the match.
However, the Red and Blue lost two of their next three matches. Dominant play from Trinity’s freshmen allowed them to start to claw back some points, with the Quakers giving up two 3-0 victories. However, Penn relentlessly came back. Hagen’s persistence won the match, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to take the match. This win came at a perfect time for the Red and Blue, especially considering the fact that it was their first victory over Trinity since 1996.
“What a weekend. We came in at the three seed and we were able to upset the rankings by beating Trinity in the semifinals. ... [It was] our first finals appearance; it’s a historic weekend for the program," coach Gilly Lane said. "I couldn’t more proud of the boys and how they fought and carried themselves and how they represented the University.”
This win set up the Quakers to compete in their first national championship. Facing Harvard (17-0, 7-0), a win would have given the Red and Blue their first national championship in program history. Although they lost their previous matchup, 8-1, to the Crimson, the Quakers still felt they had a shot at the title.
“We probably went up against the best team in college squash history in Harvard this weekend. It felt like we had an outside chance, and the main thing today was just about showing heart and determination and grit," Lane said. "Everyone who stepped on the court today did that, and I couldn’t be more proud of this group."
The Crimson dominated from the start. Taking all three matches in the first wave in straight games, Harvard demonstrated its sheer talent. The Crimson continued to dominate throughout almost every match. Penn’s only point in the match came from Yacobucci, who won by a score of 3-1 in the sixth position. Although the Quakers were unable to prevail, the very appearance they made is an indication of the talent of the team and their promise for years to come. Returning most of their players and excited about the talented incoming class, the Red and Blue will use their experience from this match towards improving next season.
“We leave with our heads held high and just absolutely proud to represent our University and play for the school. This is our first finals appearance compared to a Harvard team that has had plenty of experiences in the finals," Lane said. "So we are going to use this, we graduate two seniors who played their hearts out this weekend, experience to motivate ourselves in spring and to push for another run at a title next year."
As the Red and Blue’s historic season comes to a close, they'll look towards the College Squash Association Individual Championships next week in the Penn Squash Center.