Underclassmen Propel Quakers To National Elite

The University of Pennsylvania women’s squash team began 2005 ready to prove to the nation that the success that it saw in the previous years was not a fluke. With the core of the lineup consisting of four sophomore and three freshmen, the Quakers closed out the season with a 5-7 overall record and a 2-4 mark in Ivy League play and as the sixth-ranked team in the nation. As well, four Quakers closed out the 2004-05 season ranked in the top-50 in the nation.

A New Leader

The young Quakers entered the season with a new coach at the helm. Jack Wyant, a four-year letterwinner at Princeton, entered his first season at Penn in 2004-05 after spending the previous year as the squash professional at Milton Academy in Milton, Mass.

Starting Off Strong

The Quakers opened the season by winning their first two matches. Each match was a 9-0 sweep, first of Cornell to open Ivy play, and then of Franklin & Marshall. Against both teams, Penn only dropped one point, as eight members of the Red and Blue defeated their opponents, 9-0.

In December, the Quakers took a 2-0 record and a 1-0 Ivy mark to New Haven, Conn. to take on No. 1 Yale. The Bulldogs proved too much for the Red and Blue, easily taking the match, 9-0. The next day at Brown, Penn rebounded to take the match, 5-4 and cement its record at 3-1, 2-1 Ivy headed into the winter break. Paula Pearson, Lauralynn Drury, Rhea Bhandare, Annie Barrett and Chloe Wynne all improved to 3-1 on the season with victories in that match.

Shining At Constable

Three sophomores and a freshman shined for Penn at the Constable Tournament, held at Princeton. It was the first competition for the team in over a month. Paula Pearson placed seventh in the main draw while Radhika Ahuwalia finished 13th. To finish in seventh, Pearson fell to No. 3 Catherine McLeod, 3-0 (9-5, 9-6, 9-5), while Ahuwalia fell to No. 1 Michelle Quibell, 3-0 (9-0, 9-1, 9-1), for her 13th place finish. In the 5.5 draw of the tournament, Caitlin Russell advanced to the finals after defeating the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. She fell in the final, 3-0 (9-5, 9-1, 9-0), to No. 1 seeded Lauren Doline. Chloe Wynne advanced to the semi-finals of the 4.5 draw, falling to Rebecca Shingleton, 3-0 (9-5, 9-5, 9-6).

Back to Competition

Settling back into match competition, the Quakers faced a tough stretch. They fell to an undefeated Princeton team, 9-0. Penn was no match for the Tigers, who won all 27 points of the match. The next match was a different story, as the Quakers defeated Williams, 8-1, in a break from Ivy League competition. That same weekend, Penn fell to both Harvard, 8-1, and Dartmouth, 6-3. Wynne shined for the Red and Blue, winning all three of her matches in clean sweeps that weekend. She defeated Joanna Leathers of Williams, 3-0, Alison Fas of Harvard, 3-0, and Jessica Tory of Dartmouth, 3-0. Pearson and Drury also notched victories for the Red and Blue against Dartmouth. To close out the dual-match season, the Quakers fell to Trinity, 8-1. Elizabeth Kern had the lone win for the Red and Blue in the match while Ahluwalia and Drury each won points against their opponents. Penn closed out the dual meet season with a 4-5 overall record and a 2-4 mark against Ancient Eight competition.

Making A Name For Themselves

It was then time for the Quakers to compete at the Howe Cup, the women’s national tournament. Seeded No. 6 heading into the tournament, Penn drew Trinity as its first-round opponent. The Red and Blue fell to the Bantams, 9-0, in the second meeting of the two teams on the week. Trinity took all 27 points of the match. It was then on to face Brown in the consolation round. In a marathon match, the middle of the lineup prevailed as the Quakers defeated Brown, 5-4. Ahluwalia, Russell, Drury, Barrett and Wynne all took their matches to claim the win for the Quakers.

In Penn’s final team match of the season, the Quakers fell to Dartmouth, 7-2, in the consolation round final. Drury and Barrett had the only two victories on the day for the Red and Blue. With the loss, Penn wrapped up the season with the No. 6 ranking in the country.

Individual Championships

After the team season was complete, four members of the Red and Blue competed at the Individual Championships. Pearson was the lone Quaker to advance past the first round of competition at the tournament. She made it to the round of 16 before falling to the fourth seed. She ended the tournament in 13th place. Ahluwalia, Drury and Russell all fell in the first round of competition and then again in consolation play.

Closing Out Strong

In addition to the Quakers final No. 6 ranking, two members of the Red and Blue finished the season ranked in the top-25 in the nation by the College Squash Association. Pearson closed out 2004-05 with a No. 14 ranking and Ahluwalia was No. 23. Two other members of the Red and Blue were ranked in the top-40. Pearson was also named All-Ivy and All-American for the second-consecutive season.

Said Head Coach Jack Wyant, "I am pleased with the final ranking.All of our top four players attained a top-40 ranking and all are underclasswomen.I expect them to put in hard work this spring and summer, resulting in better squash and improved rankings next season.Looking forward, each of these players has a tremendous opportunity make a considerable impact on college squash here at Penn.With effort and self-belief I know they'll get it done."

Written by Jennifer Hildebrand, athletic communications assistant