HARTFORD, Conn. — Following yesterday's tragic loss that knocked Penn out of Potter Cup contention, the Quakers had one last match Sunday to try to salvage a consolation in the third-place game against Yale. But after nearly four hours of play inside the Kellner Squash Center, Penn suffered another heartbreaking 5-4 defeat.
While the final scores were the same on Saturday and Sunday, the two matches as a whole were vastly different. One key difference was that Penn made two lineup changes from Saturday's semifinal, with Shaam Gambhir and Oliver Green in while Roger Baddour and Tushar Shahani did not play Sunday. Gambhir had seen action on Friday against Drexel, but for Green, this was his first playing time of the tournament.
But for coach Gilly Lane, there were still similarities, as he said that "what was similar is we didn't close out the games well. We had opportunities."
Once the matches began, it didn't take long for the Quakers to jump out to an early lead, with junior Nick Spizzirri defeating Yale's Maxwell Orr in three games in the first match of the day to finish.
One of those new players provided Penn's first loss of the day, as Gambhir fell to Yale's Eric Kim in four games, dropping three straight after winning the first.
Penn quickly bounced back with a five-game win from senior Dillon Huang, who came back from a deficit of two games to one. The next match also went the way of the Quakers, with freshman Omar Hafez dispatching Yale's Max Forster in three games. With four games in the books, Penn led 3-1.
Junior Dana Santry — who, along with Trinity's Benedek Takacs, was assessed a one-game penalty stemming from an on-court incident in their match yesterday — started one game down. Starting off at a disadvantage, he was defeated by Yale's Arav Bhagwati in three games.
In the next match to finish, Green — a sophomore from England who had not played since a win against Chatham on Dec. 4 — nearly battled back from a two games to one deficit, but was ultimately defeated by Yale's Merritt Wurts in a five-game thriller. With three matches left to finish, the two teams were tied at three all.
In what was now a best-of-three contest, it was Yale who drew first blood, with Siow Yee Xian defeating Penn sophomore Nathan T. B. Kueh in a four-game contest. After winning the first game, Kueh lost three straight, putting Yale ahead four games to three.
In each of the final two matches — of which Penn needed to win both, as opposed to just one yesterday — the Quakers dropped the first two games.
But it was then, with their backs pushed tightly against the walls, that the Quakers' stars shone the brightest. Senior Saksham Choudhary won the final three games to secure a win.
"It was an unbelievable win for Saksham in his last match playing for the team [for him to] win in five," Lane said
And sophomore Abdelrahman Dweek clawed his way back to tie his match at two games apiece. Over the course of the day, the contest had gone from first to five wins, to a best of three, and now a win-by-two game to 11 in order to determine who would take home third place.
This race to 11 played out much like the match as a whole. Yale's Nikhil Ismail jumped out to a 9-4 lead, but Dweek battled back to make it 9-7. The last two points, however, went the Bulldog's way, and Yale won the game 11 points to seven, the match three games to two, and the day's contest five matches to four.
"To work back from two-love down, I just think he spent a lot of energy there," Lane said. "But I'm really proud of the fight today."
The Quakers now finish the Potter Cup, and the season, ranked fourth in the country. Yale claims third place. Next up for Penn are the CSA Individual Championships, which will take place next weekend at the Specter Squash Center in Philadelphia.
But despite the loss closing out a disappointing Potter Cup for the team, Lane still complimented Penn's performance Sunday, remarking that "it was a pretty disheartening loss yesterday, and the boys made a decision to really go for it today, and I couldn't be more proud of them."