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Penn women's squash plays Dartmouth on Feb. 19, 2023.

Credit: Jesse Zhang

There is often a saying in sports that in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. On Sunday, No. 3 Penn women’s squash (10-3, 3-2 Ivy) had its shot to dethrone No. 1 Trinity (10-0). Unfortunately, the Red and Blue, fell short, falling to Trinity by a final score of 8-1.

Just like in previous weeks, plagued the team as the ailing Quakers were again missing three starters in action, each due to stress fractures. The last time the team had its full complement of players was January 19th, when the Quakers faced No. 8 Cornell (7-6, 1-4 Ivy). Although injuries are part of the game, the injuries could not have occurred at a more inopportune time.

“Trinity is a team that is a level above us at this point. On paper in terms of the talent level, they are further along than we are,” said coach Jack Wyant. “Our mission is to try and close the gap. What [Trinity does] really well is attack the front two corners of the court.”

To start the day, Trinity came out of the gates firing on all cylinders in front of a raucous crowd. Despite tough back-and-forth battles, the Red and Blue were simply no match for a team that proved to everyone why it was deserving of its number-one ranking. Senior Avni Anand, junior Emma Wolf, and junior Emma Carter picked up set wins but were ultimately vanquished losing their matches each by a score of 3-1.

Although the Bantams already picked up the overall match victory by that point, the highlight of the day’s matches was freshman Sohaila Ismail’s hard-earned victory against Trinity’s Malak Ashraf Kamal. Playing out of the first position, Ismail narrowly won the first set by a score of 11-9. From there, Ismail looked to put a stranglehold on the match and win the second set. However, Kamal battled back, winning the second set by a score of 11-8. Tied at one set a piece, Ismail gained inspiration from her teammates during a tough stretch in the match.

“It wasn’t an easy match at all, [as] it was one of the toughest,” Ismail said. “I genuinely saw it as a team win. I never would have won if my team wasn’t there to cheer me on every single point [such as] when they were coaching me and helping me out the entire match.”

Backed by this support, Ismail emphatically won sets three and four by a score of 11-7 and 14-12, respectively. The length of the match spanned nearly an hour, which was by far the longest match played on the day. When it was all said and done, Ismail saw her individual win as a true team win, a testament to the work behind the scenes that helped get her through the physical and mental fatigue of the match.

“Especially since [the match] was at Trinity, if it wasn’t for [my teammates] supporting me all the way, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this alone,” Ismail said. “Even though we might have lost as a team, we are there for each other and every single match is important.”

As the Quakers gear up for nationals at the Arlen Spencer US Squash Center in Philadelphia, Wyant reiterated the importance of getting healthy heading into the home stretch of the season. He also commended his team's efforts both in their disposition and performance on the court.

“I’m proud of the way they fought and the way they handled themselves on court. Trinity is a tough place to play, they always have a great crowd,” Wyant said. “I think that they were calm and composed on the court…that is something that bodes well for the future.”

This weekend, the Red and Blue head to No. 4 Princeton (8-2, 4-1 Ivy) in the regular season finale. The team looks forward to not only learning from this past weekend’s results, but also hopefully bringing back a healthier lineup that will propel them to reach their full potential.