A Season Of Cliffhangers For Penn Men's Team  
by Rob Dinerman

Andrew Douglas (Penn), Ahmed Bayoumy (St Lawrence)

photos Penn Squash

Dateline February 14th --- An era ended this past Sunday when the University of Pennsylvania's men's and women's teams played against Columbia in the last home matches that will ever be hosted by the Ringe Squash Courts, which have had a noteworthy 59-year run --- including hosting several U. S. Nationals and Potter Cup championships --- and are slated for demolition this spring.

    Columbia journeyed to Philadelphia knowing that by winning it would clinch its first-ever men's Ivy League title. The Lions got what they came for but were pushed to the limit before barely emerging with a 5-4 victory that marked the fifth of Penn's seven Ivy League dual meets that ended with a 5-4 tally. Never before in the history of Penn men's squash have that many dual meets been decided by a single match, and Penn's bare-margin trio of losses to Princeton, Harvard and Columbia would all have been reversed (which would have made for a 7-0 record and the Ivy League pennant) had a combined six points instead landed in the Quaker column.

     Against Princeton, Penn No. 7 Yash Barghava led Abhimanyu Shah 10-9 in the fifth before yielding the final three points; in the Harvard match, Penn No. 8 James Watson, trailing Bradley Smith 10-4 in the fifth game, fended off five straight match-balls against him and drew to 9-10 before Smith was able to finally garner the clinching point; and in the Columbia match a few days ago, Penn No. 3 Marwan Mahmoud battled Columbia standout Seif Attiah right to the end of their 11-8 fifth game. As it happens, the Penn women also lost 5-4 to Columbia when, in the last and deciding match between No. 5 players Habiba Mohammed of Columbia and Penn sophomore Lindsay Stanley ---whose father, Jeff, won the US Nationals 31 years ago in 1987, one of the years that the event was held at Ringe ---  Mohammed prevailed, three games to love.

    The Penn men's team's frenetic season also included their being on the winning end of 5-4 matches with Yale (in which, with the team score knotted at 4-all, Karim Tarek won the No. 4 match against Pierson Broadwater) and Dartmouth. This latter outcome was decided when Penn's No. 1 freshman star Andrew Douglas, a finalist in the 2017 US National Championship, won 3-2 over Alvin Huemann, to whom Douglas had lost when they played a few months ago in the preseason Ivy Scrimmages this past autumn.

   This pair of airtight victories, along with 9-0 shut-outs against Cornell and Brown, enabled the Quakers to finish with a 4-3 league record and in a three-way tie with Princeton and Dartmouth for third place in the Ivy League standings. The team has this weekend off before the national men's college championship tournament, the Potter Cup, will be played from February 23rd through 25th at Trinity College, with the season-ending Individual Championships to follow one week later in Washington DC. According to Penn men's head coach (and four-time U. S. Nationals finalist) Gilly Lane, the Ivy League currently is at its highest-ever level in terms of quality of play and parity between the top six teams. Lane wryly expressed the hope that at least some of the upcoming Potter Cup matches would be decided by convincing margins, noting that, after a winter of 5-4 results virtually every week, "I don't think my heart can handle any more of them!"