As did fall sports, the winter athletics teams entered the season having not played in almost two years. Unlike this past fall season, however, it looks like a few of these teams have a shot at competing for Ivy League titles.
Coming into the season ranked at No. 2 in the Ivy League preseason rankings, the Quakers looked destined for a strong start to their season. They did just that, starting out the season 4-1, but in the absence of numerous upperclassmen.
Prior to their first game, Penn’s juniors and seniors were each suspended four games, which was doled out over the course of the team’s first eight games.
This reduction of a veteran presence on the court resulted in Penn's next three consecutive losses, and the team also lost its first game back at full strength on Sunday by 22 to Duke. Now the team sits under .500 while they are just two games away from the beginning of conference play.
Although the suspensions certainly did not help Penn, one silver lining was that it gave sophomore forward Jordan Obi a chance to break out, who currently ranks second on the team in both points per game with 13.4 and rebounds per game with 7.0.
Despite the women’s team troubling with suspensions, men’s basketball is having an even tougher time finding its footing so far this season.
As of the morning of Dec. 8, it sits at 3-8, with six of those eight losses coming by double-digits. Granted, the Quakers have faced three nationally-ranked opponents in their first 12 matchups, but the losses are still a worrying development. In addition to the tough schedule, the Red and Blue are currently missing two of their three most valuable frontcourt players in junior Max Lorca-Lloyd and freshman Nick Spinoso, which hasn’t helped with the team’s paint presence on either end of the floor.
But like the women’s team, the men’s squad also features a sophomore on a breakout season. Jordan Dingle, who leads the team as of the morning of Dec. 8 in minutes per game with 32.4 despite his collegiate inexperience, currently sits as the team’s leading scorer with 20.0 points per game.
More worrisome in the scoring department — Dingle is the only player on the team averaging over ten points per game. If the Quakers want to see success in upcoming Ivy League play, they’ll need more players to shoulder Dingle's large portion of the scoring workload.
Men’s and women’s swimming and diving
Through five meets, both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the Ivy League.
Both squads finished out their 2021 slate with the Zippy Invitational. After three days, the men’s team finished in first place out of the seven-team field, while the women’s team finished in second place.
Heading into 2022, both units will have four meets, three of which against Ancient Eight foes, before competing in late February at the Ivy League Championships and the Easter College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships.
The last time both teams competed at the Ivy Championships — in 2020 — the men’s squad finished seventh out of eight, while the women’s team finished fourth.
Men’s and women’s squash
Coming out of a canceled season for almost all Penn teams, these two look the most likely to secure the school’s first significant championship.
The men’s team, which holds an undefeated 9-0 record, currently ranks No. 1 in the nation, and for good reason. Two key contributors to the program, graduate student Andrew Douglas and senior Aly Abou Eleinen, have all the makings of professional squash players after their time as Quakers. Through its first nine matchups, the team holds a combined 79-2 record in individual matchups.
Although not as dominant as the men’s program, the women’s squash team — which currently holds the No. 9 ranking in the country — is finishing the year with a respectable 6-2 record. The Quakers’ only two losses came to the No. 5- and No. 6-ranked teams in the country by tight 5-4 margins. As they enter the latter portion of their season, they’ll be led by veterans like Ashley Manning, who was named Penn squash’s rookie of the year in 2019-20.
Through three competitions, Penn’s wrestling program looks destined for success as they enter the bulk of their schedule.
During the team’s first action of the season at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic, sophomore Michael Colaiocco won the Hammer Award at 133 pounds. A week later, the Red and Blue competed at the 2021 Keystone Classic, in which they bested seven other teams for a first-place finish.
The big challenge, though, was just ahead, as Penn faced No. 2-ranked Penn State on December 3 at the Palestra. Although it had some strong moments, the team lost 20-16 and won’t compete again until the Midlands Championship from Dec. 29 - Dec. 30.
Whether or not Penn can keep up this momentum until the NCAA Championships in mid-March will determine just how successful this season can be.
Men’s and women’s fencing
Starting the season off with just two invitationals, both the men’s and women’s teams have displayed a solid amount of potential.
The women’s program began the season 4-1, with three of its wins coming by double-digits. Although a freshman, Katina Proestakis Ortiz has been a key contributor for the team. Prior to arriving at Penn, Ortiz competed this year for Chile at the Tokyo Olympics, so she headed into the season with valuable experience.
Canadian sophomore Blake Broszus of the men’s team also competed this year at the Summer Olympics and has been a crucial component of the program. Although the team struggled at the recent OSU Invitational, it had some success at the Temple Open in late October.
Both programs will have two more invitationals and a matchup against Brown before heading to the Ivy League Championships in February.