Spotlight Intercollegiates

By Kirsten Carlson

A Long Time Coming
Penn finally defeats an Ivy powerhouse

Three years: That’s a while. Eight years: That’s a long time. That is how long Penn women’s squash coach Jack Wyant and men’s coach Craig Thorpe-Clark have waited for a win over one of the top three Ivy schools. In Wyant’s three-year term and Thorpe-Clark’s eight, their December 2 win at Yale marked their first victory over Yale, Princeton or Harvard.

The Penn men’s team came close to defeating Yale last year, losing 5-4. This year, led by senior captains Gilly Lane and Ben Ende, who secured wins for the Quakers at No. 1 and No. 5, the team won 6-3. For Lane, who Yale coach Dave Talbott calls the best American collegiate player, the win was something he had been waiting a long time for.

“It was just an amazing feeling to play a match against Yale, Harvard or Princeton and know we can compete, and just to beat one of the teams in the top three,” Lane said. “It (not defeating one of top three Ivy teams) was frustrating to an extent but at the same time we’ve been improving every year at Penn. I knew we were going through a building process. The most frustrating part last year was when we lost to Yale 5-4 and knowing we were so close. This year it is just so flattering to be mentioned in the same breath as those teams.”

Thorpe-Clark has been building the Penn men’s team for several years, and this win meant a lot to him and his team.

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“It was great and really exciting,” Thorpe-Clark said. “It was sort of validation for the guys and all the hard work they’ve done. Last year we came close and that gave us the signs that we were on the right track to challenge the top four teams (including Trinity). We believed we could win. We didn’t think it would be easy and it wasn’t, especially playing them at Yale. The intrinsic motivation was for the team to believe they could win this match. We had been preparing for this match during the preseason and the first half of the season.”

Talbott, though admittedly not happy to lose, said he has a lot of respect for both Thorpe-Clark and Wyant, and how they have built their teams up. He is impressed with both coaches and gave Wyant credit, as normally it takes more than three years to build a team. Talbott said he expected the Yale men to win by a score of either 6-3 or 5-4, but said he was satisfied with a 5-4 loss to the Penn women, as they have very strong freshmen.

It was the bottom of Penn’s lineup that carried the women to victory. Yale remains very strong on top with Catherine McLeod and Miranda Ranieri playing one and two. Recent US Junior Open winner and Penn No. 1, Kristen Lange, could not contain McLeod at the top spot as she lost 3-1, as did fellow freshman Sydney Scott to Ranieri at the No. 2 position. Senior captain Paula Pearson won at No. 3, and all of the players in the 6-9 positions were victorious in their matches, securing the confidence-building win for Penn.

“The nice thing about our lineup this year is that I think we are strong top to bottom,” Wyant said. “Maybe it was the bottom half that carried us this time, but I am certain that in other matches the top of our lineup will carry us. Every team will present different challenges, so it’s not like we are always going to be relying on one section of our ladder.”

After the win, the Penn women were obviously elated.

“I know for a fact that they’re excited,” Wyant said. “Yale is a juggernaut. They’re three-time national champions. I don’t care how many kids they’ve graduated. It’s a huge deal to beat them, and it’s a huge deal to beat them on their courts.”

Northeastern is moving up in the world

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Northeastern player Chris Birkins (L) in a match against Wesleyan.

The little team that could…and quickly. Perhaps that should be the motto for the Northeastern Men’s Squash team. In just its third year in existence, the Northeastern Men’s Squash team was ranked an all time high No. 25 at mid-season. The team, coached by Chris Smith, has seen improvement every year, finishing 44th in the CSA their first year and 33rd last year, winning the Chaffee division at Nationals. Now Smith thinks they have a chance to move even higher up the ranks.

“Our goal is to crack into the top 20,” Smith said. “We play five teams in the next month that I think we could beat.”

With some success in these matches, climbing a couple places in the rankings could happen—along with a spot in the Summers division at Nationals for teams ranked 17-24.

“If we get into that draw, our goal is to win it,” Smith said. “To get into that division and win that division would be amazing.”