Despite missing out on the Division A Howe Cup Championship, Penn women's squash dominated its competition throughout the weekend and claimed the Kurtz Cup.
After a commanding 9-0 performance against No. 16 Bowdoin on Friday, the Quakers proceeded to grind out a slightly more competitive 6-3 win against No. 12 Stanford on Saturday, Feb. 18. Here, the depth of the Penn roster really showed with the bottom portions of the lineup going 6-0 en route to the win. Penn's fifth win of the day, which clinched their spot in the finals, came from senior Eujung Park — who defeated Stanford sophomore Isabella Rolfe 3-1.
However, Saturday also featured a moment of panic, when Penn freshman Malak Taha suffered an ankle injury early into her second game against Stanford junior Si Yi Ma. Taha, who was recently named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in addition to receiving first-team All-Ivy honors, had become a pivotal part of the team’s lineup, often playing in the number one position.
With Taha injured against Dartmouth, Sunday's match featured nine different matchups compared to the first time the two teams faced off on Jan. 21 in Hanover, N.H.
“Our number one player was out,” Penn’s senior captain Ashley Manning said about Dartmouth. “Everyone was playing a new player today, which was definitely a little bit nerve wracking, but we were [also] excited to just go in and get a good match and play as well as we can.”
The changes didn’t seem to influence Penn’s performance too much; the team won 8-1 back in January, and in the finals, the Quakers swept the Big Green 9-0.
One of the most exciting matches on Sunday was sophomore Grace Lavin’s 3-2 win over Dartmouth senior Neeya Patel – where Lavin overcame a 2-1 deficit. In the longest game of the day, taking 44 minutes, Lavin set the tone for the gritty “get it done” mentality shared by the rest of the Penn team. The match was also oddly reminiscent of Lavin’s performance last month where she also came back from 2-1 and win against Dartmouth senior Jesse Brownell.
Another highlight of the day came when senior Eujung Park pulled out with the win against Dartmouth junior Priya Verma. After losing the first game 11-1, Park fought back and ultimately won 3-2. To secure the sweep, Penn freshman Natasha Pensler took 43 minutes in a back-and-forth battle against Dartmouth junior Ellie Burke before emerging with yet another 3-2 win.
The season has been full of ups and downs for the Quakers. After placing sixth at the Division A Championships last year, missing out on the tournament as a whole was disappointing, especially for the seniors on the team.
Despite all this, Penn women’s squash’s dominance in the Kurtz Cup shows that the team is eager to show that it belongs with the eight teams ranked above it from this year. And by capping off the season with such a decisive win, the team is eager to show that it is headed in the right direction.
“It certainly wasn't where we had hoped to end up all season but ending with a win is certainly a good feeling,” said junior team captain Avni Anand. “It's definitely great momentum and we have lot of plans for next year, so we are excited to get that going.”