The men’s squash team hoped to make an early statement and establish their place among the Ivy’s best, but instead they will have to spend the rest of the season scrambling back to the top.

The Bulldogs (0-1, 0-1 Ivy) fell, 6-3, to a surprisingly resilient Penn squad (2-0, 2-0) at the Brady Squash Center on Saturday afternoon. The loss comes just four weeks after the Bulldogs upended the Quakers by that same three-game margin in the Ivy Scrimmages.

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“On paper we’re supposed to beat them,” captain Nick Chirls ’07 said. “It came down to who wanted it more, and they fought harder than us.”

Some of the players said they believed the loss was due in part to a change in lineups for both teams. But the team refused to use that as an excuse. Todd Ruth ’10 said he felt the Yalies brought more talent to almost every court but fell victim to a lack of mental preparation.

The Elis expected the depth in their ladder to prove too much for Penn, which must now be considered among the top teams in the Ivy League. As it turned out, the Quakers supplied consistent strength throughout their own lineup, and the Elis fell on the wrong side of every close match.

“It wasn’t one of our best days,” Moshe Sarfaty ’08 said. “That’s just part of sports. A few things didn’t work for us, and sometimes you really can’t say why.”

Ruth, Sarfaty and Max Samuel ’08 all won a game in their respective matches before ultimately bowing out, 3-1, in hotly contested defeats. Ethan Oetter ’09 and Colin Campbell ’09 also kept all three of their games close but could not generate enough momentum to edge out a victory and fell 3-0. After emerging victorious in five of the first six games played, the Quakers secured the victory before the third group of matches even started.

Thanks to victories from Ho Ming Chiu ’08, Francis Johnson ’09 and Aaron Fuchs ’10, the Bulldogs were able to keep the overall score respectable, but a loss of any magnitude still falls well below the team’s expectations.

“The team was extremely disappointed as a whole,” Chirls said. “We haven’t lost to Penn in a long time, and it was a huge setback for us, everyone knows it.”

Chirls, starting in the No. 1 spot, played very well in defeat against Penn’s Gilly Lane, arguably the best American collegiate player.

The Elis, already behind perennial powerhouses Harvard and Princeton in the league standings, will now begin picking up the pieces and refocusing as they attempt to defend their Ancient Eight title.

“We need to buckle down and get some wins,” Ruth said. “The loss hurts. But we know we have Princeton and Harvard later in the season, and we feel we match up well with them.”

Chirls knows the season will ultimately come down to what the Bulldogs can do against the Tigers and Crimson. He said the team has to learn from this loss and that ultimately Yale can still win the Ivy League if it takes care of business against those two teams.

Hopefully the Elis will learn from this setback and use it as an opportunity to highlight some of their weaknesses.

“We just need to focus on the future,” Sarfaty said. “We’ll watch film and try to improve on our own personal performances.”

The team will have to wait over a month to right the ship and turn things in a positive direction. The squash men do not return to the courts competitively until the end of Winter Recess, when they travel to Brunswick, Maine, to face Bates, Bowdoin and Colby on Jan. 6.