Penn women’s squash's season begins its final chapter on Friday, Feb. 17, when the Quakers are set to welcome Bowdoin in the quarterfinals of the Kurtz Cup. After struggling against Ivy League rivals throughout the regular season — resulting in a 1-5 conference record — Penn ranks ninth in the nation, behind the top eight teams, who have all punched their ticket to the Howe Cup.
The Quakers last won the Kurtz Cup in 2002 and are looking to make the most out of their play in the competition this year. Bowdoin — ranked 16th nationally — finished the regular season with a 12-8 record, and will look to immediately capitalize on the Penn’s recent struggles.
This year’s edition of the competition will be hosted at the Penn Squash Center on campus. Other participants in the Kurtz Cup are Dartmouth, Tufts, and Stanford, which all trail closely behind Penn in national rankings. Earlier this year, though, the Quakers defeated Dartmouth 8-1 in Hanover to make them the favorites for this year’s division champions.
Sophomore Emma Carter is definitely an interesting player to watch throughout the tournament; her improvement this season is noteworthy. She's racked up five individual match wins, including one against Yale. Although she hasn’t always played in Ivy matches during the regular season, Carter has made the most of her playing time and could really step up in the Quakers' hunt for the Kurtz Cup.
Junior Avni Anand will also surely need to play a major role for Penn if the team wants to win its matches this weekend. The junior has often been tasked with facing off against the strongest players from opposing schools. Having won key matches against Dartmouth and Virginia — currently ranked fifth in the nation — Anand has the experience and ability to make an impact in difficult individual battles.
After a breakout season, freshman Malak Taha is Penn’s undeniable x-factor. Taha was selected as the Ivy League Rookie of the Year following her strong performances — specifically within Ivy play. The freshman quickly embraced her large responsibilities in the team and beat some of the toughest players in the country. The Cairo native has three conference wins this season, including one against Princeton’s First Team All-Ivy player Molly Chadwick.
Penn has the talent and depth needed to take home the Kurtz Cup; it will likely come down to the team’s consistency. Coming off of a five-match losing streak, the Quakers are looking to quickly build up momentum to carry them far into the tournament.