PHILADELPHIA – Well rested after an extended winter break, the No. 5 Penn women’s squash team will play host to its first Ivy League competition of the New Year this weekend at the Ringe Squash Courts. The Quakers (4-0, 0-0 Ivy) will welcome last year’s Howe Cup champions, No. 1 Harvard (4-0, 1-0), to Philadelphia on Saturday for a noon match. On Sunday, eighth-ranked Dartmouth (3-1, 0-1) will visit Ringe for a match set to begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday’s match will truly be a test of skill for the Red and Blue as they put their flawless record on the line against the Crimson. To this point in the season, the Quakers have yet to lose a game in competition. There will be plenty of action as the two teams have a lot of depth to work with.
Headlining the day will be the battle at No. 1 between Penn’s Nabilla Ariffin (3-0) and Harvard’s Amanda Sobhy (1-0). The two met once before, on Jan. 14 of last season, and Sobhy took the match in straight games, 3-0 (11-5, 11-1, 11-0). Ariffin is coming off a stellar year, in which she earned another second-team All-America nomination – her third – as well as her second first-team All-Ivy nomination. To this point in the season, Ariffin’s biggest win came against her sister, Nessrine Arrifin of Bates, 3-0 (11-5, 11-6, 11-7).
As for Sobhy, she is just the fourth player ever to win both the Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same season, the last being her teammate Laura Gemmell in 2009-10. Having played just one match on the year, this will be the first-team All-American’s first real test of the season.
Ariffin and Sobhy make up what should be a stellar pair of ladders. In total, nine of the top 25 players in the most recent CSA individual rankings will be playing at Ringe on Saturday – Sobhy is No. 1 and Ariffin is No. 13 – and two more of those 25 graduated from Harvard after last season.
The two teams have had two common opponents this year in Bates and Williams, and both dispatched those teams handily, all four matches ending in 9-0 results. As for the history between the two programs, the edge undoubtedly favors the Crimson, who leads the all-time series, 39-5. The Quakers will look to change the story between the two teams by winning versus Harvard in Philadelphia, something they’ve done only once before.
Sunday will be slightly less difficult for the Quakers, as the Big Green has just one player ranked in the top 50. Most likely, it will be Ariffin facing that player, Corey Schafer – ranked No. 30 – in the No. 1 match. Schafer (2-1) suffered her only defeat in straight games against Harvard in the first match of the year – Dartmouth lost, 9-0, to Harvard – while topping opponents from St. Lawrence and Franklin & Marshall. Ariffin and Schafer know each other quite well, having met three times in their careers, and all three times – twice at the No. 1 position and once at No. 2 – Ariffin emerged as the victor.
Penn holds the edge in the all-time series, 26-20, with the recent history making the difference as the Quakers have won seven straight against Dartmouth. The Big Green’s last victory over the Quakers came at the Ringe Courts on Feb. 6, 2005, 6-3. That has been the trend throughout the series against Dartmouth, as the away team has an above .500 record in both instances. The Red and Blue will look to even their all-time record against Dartmouth at Ringe to 9-9 with a win on Sunday.