In the realm of collegiate sports, enemies and rivalries are very common. Lifelong friends? Harder to come by.
So, for the friendships that do exist, they often extend beyond the playing field or court and become the backbone of an individual’s and team’s success. For Penn men’s squash, the bond between seniors Dana Santry and Nick Spizzirri is not only a formidable force on the court, but also a testament to transcending the boundaries of competition.
The two first met when they were seven years old at a weekly tennis clinic in their hometown of Greenwich, Conn. They quickly became best friends, as they attended the same middle school and played on numerous youth sports teams together.
From their early days as friends in Greenwich to their current senior campaign at Penn, Santry and Spizzirri’s joint journey has been one marked by camaraderie, mutual support, and an unyielding passion for the sport they love.
It was Santry who first introduced Spizzirri to squash. “Playing with someone better than me drove me to get better myself,” Spizzirri remarked of Santry. From there, two youth careers blossomed side by side.
“Growing up, we had the same coach for a long time. I think we played [against each other] 35 times in organized junior tournaments," Santry said. "At the same time, we had played so many times that we kind of figured out how to battle it out on the court, but have a separate relationship off the court independent of who won or lost on a given day."
When they were both 17 years old, Spizzirri and Santry shared a common goal of making the world junior team, which would consist of four of the top under-19 players selected to go to Malaysia to represent the United States at the World Junior Championships. “We were competing for a common goal and it brought us closer together — not only in terms of play on the court, but just the fact that we were with each other so much,” Spizzirri said.
This friendship spilled into college when both players chose Penn for their collegiate careers.
“I think coming in as freshmen, it was definitely a lot easier to assimilate to the team culture with someone that you knew so well coming in with you,” said Spizzirri. They have lived together during their whole time at Penn, a situation they are quite familiar with. In high school, the two would hang out at each other’s houses every day before squash practice, and practically acted like brothers.
Their chemistry, both on and off the court, has been a driving force behind the team's camaraderie and success. This year, while Spizzirri is playing in the two spot and Santry is recovering from injury, they are both team captains. The two shared this title in their senior year at Brunswick as well, and feel the past experience will benefit them during this season.
While their journey at Penn has been marked by victories and personal growth, it hasn't been without its challenges.
“For me, it’s always good to have someone who you’re really close with to keep you in good spirits when things aren’t really going your way,” Santry said of Spizzirri in regards to his recovery process after suffering an injury earlier in the year. “Especially when [Spizzirri] is playing squash, he can look quite angry on the court, but really, he’s someone I can always talk to. I’ve come to see that he’s just so passionate about the game.”
As the senior season of their collegiate squash careers unfolds, Santry and Spizzirri are determined to make it one for the books. But of course, eventually, the sun will set on these great collegiate careers, and perhaps give way to a new chapter of friendship.
“I don’t see it being difficult to stay in touch with Santry," Spizzirri said. "I mean, to be honest, I probably see us being roommates after college too.”