Half a dozen is exactly what Penn squash ordered this weekend, picking up six wins in just a two-day span.
The No. 1 ranked Penn men's team defeated Western University 9-0 on Friday and then ripped off back-to-back wins Saturday, defeating Virginia 8-1 and Navy 9-0.
“I think all the guys on the team stepped up when they needed to,” coach Gilly Lane said. “[I'm] really proud of the young guys, second big weekend of college squash and they came through.”
On Friday, sophomore Omar Hafez, playing out of the first position, made quick work of his opponent, sweeping the match 3-0 and winning in only 20 minutes. Hafez — who earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year last year — looks to build off his 16-1 record from a season ago.
In the Saturday match up against No. 8 ranked Virginia, Hafez pulled out a tough, five-game victory for his second win of the weekend.
“He's just maturing before our eyes and he's growing, he's stronger physically, he's stronger mentally,” Lane said. “He has a year of college under his belt. So he looks like a veteran out there on court.”
Meanwhile, on court five against Virginia, freshman Varun Chitturi earned what would become his second of three 3-0 victories. A native of Fremont, Calif., Chitturi has made a splash so far with the Quakers. Lane added that coming in, the team had high expectations for Chitturi, but he has far exceeded them, filling in at a higher position for a number of injured players in the starting lineup.
It was a grueling weekend for the team to play in three straight matches, but the team was well prepared, according to Lane.
“It actually really starts in September and October. It's really building the physical attributes of all the players early, because they know it's coming,” he said.
Hafez added that ranked at No. 1, every game is a must-win and “to win all the three matches back-to-back, that was amazing.”
On the women's side, the Quakers continue to build on their impressive resume that has landed them at fifth in the nation.
“I really just attribute that to the effort that they've put in to this point,” coach Jack Wyant said.
Penn dueled with Stanford on Friday, earning a 7-2 victory. The Quakers got off to a hot start in nearly all of their matches, winning all but two of their first games in each. Freshman Sohaila Ismail earned a clean sweep out of the second position after battling it out in a tough third set.
The native of El Shorouk City, Egypt, fell in her second game against Virginia, but stepped up into the first spot against Georgetown and earned her second 3-0 win of the weekend.
“I think it's really nice to just see our hard work pay off,” Ismail said.
With their 7-2 victory over No. 7 ranked Virginia, Penn avenged their loss from a season ago. Then — to finish off their weekend — the Quakers made quick work of Georgetown, winning all 27 games to earn a clean 9-0 victory. Despite their loss, Wyant lauded Georgetown’s performance as a new varsity program in the Collegiate Squash Association.
“They just went varsity a few years ago so I am thrilled to have them part of the CSA,” he said.
Both teams will play one more match against Williams on Dec. 3, before taking over a month off for the winter break. They will return to action in mid-January to begin their Ivy League schedules.
“[This weekend] showed us that we are right up there with the best teams in the nation, and we're just really excited to keep it going and compete going forward,” women's senior Avni Anand said.