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Penn men's squash celebrates after a point against Princeton on Feb. 4, 2023.

Credit: Julia Van Lare

In the scientific world, Newton’s second law of motion defines force as mass times acceleration. In the cinema world, Star Wars defines force as the power of the Jedi. In the squash world, force is defined as Penn men’s squash. 

Over the weekend, the Quakers re-established themselves as a force to be reckoned with. On Saturday, the No. 1 Quakers (12-1, 5-0 Ivy) secured a share of the Men’s Ivy League squash title with a triumphant 7-2 victory over Yale (8-2, 5-2 Ivy). It was the program’s fifth Ivy League title and the second in three years. Throughout the day, the Red and Blue overpowered the Bulldogs with their skill and ball placement. After jumping out to an early lead, the team could not be stopped.

Notable performances on the day included freshman Salman Khalil and senior Nicholas Spizzirri’s straight-set wins. Khalil, playing out of the first position, swept his match against Yale’s Siow Yee Xian by scores of 11-5, 11-2, and 11-7, respectively. Likewise, Spizzirri, playing out of the third position, overwhelmed his opponent, Yale’s Maxwell Orr, by scores of 17-15, 11-8, and 11-5, respectively.

“Yale is always a tough place to play,” said coach Gilly Lane. “To come out with a win on Saturday the way we did was fantastic. I thought the guys showed a lot of heart and mental strength in order to get through that.”

After the win against Yale, the team had a quick turnaround before facing No. 3 Trinity (13-0) on Sunday. This matchup was more than just another game for the Quakers — it was a rematch against the team that took them out of the Potter Cup and a chance at winning the national championship last year. Although the Red and Blue wound up narrowly losing to the Bantams by a final score of 5-4, the intense and close matches marked a brewing non-conference rivalry.

Throughout the day, the teams appeared very evenly matched. Long rallies, layers of sweat, and visible moments of fatigue were frequently present on the court. In arguably the match of the day, Spizzirri, playing out of the third position again, won a back-and-forth match against Trinity’s Joachim Chuah. Despite having next played Chuah before, Spizzirri strategized to place balls near the front of the court to gain an advantage. From the physicality of the match, Spizzirri knew it was going to be a battle.

“The fourth game, I was pretty tired, and he went off on an early lead. I had to just live to fight another day and play till the fifth,” Spizzirri said. “For the fifth game… I’m not going to lie I was pretty physically dead out there, but then I looked back at my teammates and thought about all the blood, sweat, and tears that we had to go through to get there. That honestly made me approach the next two rallies for the guys.”

In another five-set thriller, senior Dana Santry put away Trinity’s Khamal Cumberbatch by scores of 13-11, 8-11, 12-10, 13-15, and 11-7, respectively. As the match went the distance, the tension in the room was palpable. Every point, save, and swing mattered. The score was tied 3-3 heading into the final three matches of the day, with the Quakers needing some clutch performances. In the end, the Bantams were too much for the Red and Blue. In spite of the loss, coach Gilly recognizes the invaluable experience that his players were getting.

“We had a couple of young guys that had not really been in that situation before. I thought they handled the pressure and the magnitude of the moment really well,” Lane said. “[We have to] make sure that we are playing the big points a little bit better and understand the situation and the moment.”

Likewise, Spizzirri expressed similar sentiments, such as being able to rise to the occasion knowing that some opportunities in sports don’t offer second chances.

“Something I think we can improve upon is staying disciplined and staying patient in the big moments,” Spizzirri said. “I think that’s what the coaches make clear before going into matches is that we have to perform in the big moments if we want to win these close matches.”

As the team looks forward to facing No. 2 Princeton (7-2, 4-1 Ivy) this weekend, a chance at securing sole possession of the Ivy League title is on the horizon. With a national championship potentially hanging in the balance, the team is poised and focused on one goal at a time. Through unparalleled camaraderie, this edition of players hopes to create one last special memory together.