All season, Penn women's squash has shown up to competitions as clear underdogs with its young roster.
But this past weekend, the Quakers wreaked an upset over previously No. 4-ranked Columbia on the biggest stage they'd face as a team all season: the Collegiate Squash Association National Championships and the battle for the Howe Cup. Seeded eighth, Penn had just claimed its spot at the competition in a win that went down to the wire.
“We’re a pretty young team," head coach Jack Wyant said. "We don’t have many seniors and squeaked into the roster by beating Cornell on the last day of the regular season. Everyone was excited about the opportunity to play."
The Red and Blue had everything to prove after falling 9-0 to No. 1-ranked and undefeated host Harvard on the first day— the Crimson went on to secure the cup.
Thus, the upset over fourth-seed Columbia was a momentous outplay for the Quakers as they powered through injuries to come out on top 6-3. Having lost to them 7-2 in the regular season, this was an encouraging turn of events.
“We had a close match against Columbia during the regular season and knew that this was a great chance for us to upset our seeding,” sophomore Penelope Oh said. “Many of the girls on the team had close matches against Columbia this weekend, but because of our determination and ability to stay focused we were able to win the match.”
Sophomore Avni Anand secured a crucial victory against the Lions despite rolling her ankle against Harvard the previous day. She stepped in to play second against Princeton after her teammate had to cede due to an injury.
“We weren’t sure if she would be able to even play, and not only did she play, but she won for us," Wyant said. "I just want to highlight her performance this weekend."
The win over Columbia also served as an encouraging opportunity for the team to measure its improvement over the course of the season.
“They pulled off a magnificent upset against a team they lost pretty handily to during the season,” Wyant said. “The opportunity was there and they took it. It’s been a tough season against the top teams and we’ve lost a few, but the team played really well here.”
With the win against Columbia, the Quakers faced Princeton on Sunday to decide the fifth rank. Despite big wins from junior Navmi Sharma and sophomore Penelope Oh, the Quakers fell 7-2 to the Tigers. Oh won both her games over the weekend, extending her streak of wins this season to 8-0.
Having arrived at the tournament seeded eighth, the women’s team left Cambridge ranked sixth, having fought hard to take home a net gain; the motivation necessary to fuel a fruitful off-season.
"Our team is extremely happy with this result, not only because being the sixth-best women's squash team in the country is an impressive accomplishment, but because we have improved so much this season and our results reflect this,” Oh said. “We have put in so much hard work this season and look forward to making even larger strides next year.”