Penn Men's Squash Ready to Compete With the Nation's Elite

PHILADELPHIA - After finishing the 2004-05 season with an 11-5 record and a No. 5 national ranking, there wouldn’t seem to be much room for improvement for the Penn men’s squash team. Yet, top to bottom, Head Coach Craig Thorpe-Clark believes that the 2005-06 edition of the Penn men’s squash team will be one of the best teams he hass coached.

“Our key this year is that we’re going to be really solid from five or six down,” Thorpe-Clark said, adding that the parity will give them an advantage in contests against more unbalanced opponents. “It doesn’t matter if the number one player wins or the number nine player wins - a win is a win.”

Despite losing four seniors to graduation, Thorpe-Clark will be able to plug holes with a group of veterans that has a proven track record of success. “There are a few guys who are stepping up to fill the void. They’re ready for it,” he said.

The team’s co-captains — senior Jacob Himmelreich and junior Gilly Lane — will be a critical part of the line-up in 2005-06. Lane is a two-time second-team All-American who finished last season ranked as the 11th-best player in the nation. Himmelreich has put together a solid career for the Quakers, which includes a 5-3 overall mark last season and an NISRA Individual Championships berth as a freshman.

“Gilly has made a big committment to his game. I expect that by the end of the season, he’s going to be a top-8 player in the country,” Thorpe-Clark said. “Jacob is a great competitor who knows how to win tough matches. He is going to have a pretty forceful season.”

The top five flights will be well taken care of with Lane, Himmelreich, junior Ben Ende, and sophomores Lee Rosen and Spencer Kurn returning. Behind them will be a talented mix of returners and newcomers looking to make an impact on the line-up.

Junior Graham Bassett will fight for a spot along with classmate Will Simonton, who struggled with injuries in 2004-05 but will contribute to this year’s team. Juniors Sam Peelle and Ryan Rayfield and sophomores Pierce Cravens and Suleyman Saleem will also compete for slots in the young but experienced line-up.

Four freshmen will also enter the mix this season. Bobby Dickey, Parker Justi, Nick Malinowski and Andrew Zimmerman all have the ability to make an impact on the team this season. Justi and Zimmerman bring extensive junior experience with them, while Dickey and Malinowski will challenge for spots in the starting line-up.

With just two seniors on the roster, Thorpe-Clark believes this team could have the beginnings of a national power.

“I look at this as the start of a new young team coming through,” he said. “We can make up some ground on those top-four teams.”

Penn will face three of those top-four teams during its Ivy League schedule. Harvard, Princeton and Yale finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in last year’s final national rankings, and top-ranked Trinity is also on this year’s slate.

With such a talented blend of players to craft a line-up, Thorpe-Clark has ample reason to believe that the Quakers can repeat as a top-five team and push the nation’s elite in competition.

“We want to be challenging for that top-four,” he said. “I think this year we just need a real team effort to do it.”

Penn's season starts Saturday at Cornell at 10 a.m.

Written by Tim Flynn, athletic communications assistant