The last time Penn men's squash claimed the Ivy League title outright was in 1969. But this past weekend, in his fifth year of leading the program, Penn alumnus and coach Gilly Lane led the team to claim the highest conference honor of winning the title outright, for only the second time in program history.
After a dramatic close competition against Princeton on the Tigers' grounds, the Quakers clinched their first Ivy League title since 1974. And with the 9-0 win against Cornell at home the following day, Penn closed its regular season with an immense record of 16-0 overall and 6-0 Ivy.
Penn stormed into the start of the season with high-sighted goals, and made clear its intentions by toppling each of its first four opponents 9-0 in a single weekend. It was the first time Penn men's squash entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation, and with a roster bolstered with All-Americans and familiar returnees from its No. 2 seeded team of 2019-20, anticipations were remarkably intense.
The campaign was fronted by four captains this season, with graduate student Andrew Douglas guarding a reliable stance in first position.
"He’s achieved so much here at Penn," coach Gilly Lane reflected at the start of the season, "and he’s already gonna go down as one of the best players to ever play at this program, I feel. We just feel really fortunate to have him back.”
Another familiar return was graduate student Yash Bhargava, who co-captained with Douglas for the 2020-21 season. Bhargava stood with a reliable senior pairing of Aly Abou Eleinen and James Flynn at the front of the lineup. The four totaled to 38 wins and just six losses, with Abou Eleinen remaining undefeated for 14 wins.
"I think we did a good job," Abou Eleinen told The Daily Pennsylvanian after the Quakers' second four-match weekend. "Obviously, we rank No. 1 in the country right now, so we have all the pressure on us, and every team is trying to show up and beat us."
While seniors Krish Bhavnani and Zach Bradlow did not see much action on the courts, they did not drop any matches played.
Junior Saksham Choudhary also posted an undefeated season with 13 wins. Fellow junior Dillon Huang came close, dropping just one match this season. Together with Brian Cowhey, Tushar Shahani, and Alexander Trauber, the junior class totaled to 35 wins and two losses.
Although the sophomores and freshmen entered the season with the same level of collegiate inexperience, they posted results while playing in high positions, signaling an optimistic future for the program.
Sophomores Dana Santry and Nick Spizzirri, who have been teammates since high school, remained reliable through the winter and stood strong in the lineup to secure Penn's undefeated season.
Freshman Nathan Kueh played the most matches among the first years with 12 wins and one loss, followed by Roger Baddour and Shaam Gambhir. They totaled to 27 wins and two losses, an immense debut season under the pressure of meeting the expectations of a nationally first-ranked team.
Already coach Lane and his team have etched their names rightfully into Penn squash history. But with the strength of the underclassmen and the leadership of nationally recognized players, perhaps this success will continue into a Red and Blue tradition.