The women’s squash team made its opponents sweat this weekend when it came within a single match of victory in its first Ivy faceoff of the season.

The No. 5 Bulldogs fell, 5-4, to No. 2 Penn on Saturday for the second time this year, echoing their narrow loss during the Ivy Scrimmage of early November. The underdog Elis fought hard all the way through against last year’s national champions and knotted the score at 4-4, but the CSA runner-up of 2008, Penn’s Kristen Lange, managed to edge out No. 1 Logan Greer ’11 in three games to eke out a Quaker victory.

But the loss, however tough, is a triumph for Yale in at least one respect. Last year, Penn defeated the Bulldogs with a far more comfortable margin, winning 7-2. This year’s nail-biter proves that the Eli squad has come a long way since this time last year.

“The loss against Penn was tough, as the preseason had been so encouraging,” captain Tara Wadhwa ’09 said. “But the match did indicate that we are on the brink, and with the next few weeks of practice and our preseason training in January, we are looking forward to closing the gap when we face Penn again at the end of the season.”

Anna Doud ’11 echoed, “It’s always nice to win, but it was a close enough match that it was encouraging to know that when we play Penn again at the end of the season, we can probably come out with a win.”

The No. 2 match was a back-and-forth affair, with Sarah Toomey ’11 winning the first game handily 9-0 against opponent Sydney Scott. And although Scott came back to take the next two games, 6-9 and 3-9, Toomey did not back down and finished out the series with two more victories of her own, taking the point for Yale. Meanwhile, at No. 3, Alia Aziz ’10 never gave her Quaker rival, Britt Hebden, a chance to take a single game. She won the first two 9-1, 9-1 before wrapping things up with a 9-0 shutout in the final game. No. 8 Alexandra Kerr ’11 breezed through her match as well, winning in three and giving up only four points in total.

“I think Tara has done a really good job of getting the team together,” Aziz said. “We all feed off one another.”

And even those Bulldogs who didn’t tally victories made the Quakers work hard for every matchup Penn won. Caroline Reigeluth ’11, playing at No. 6, dropped two games, 9-5. In game three, she refused to go down without a fight, barely losing to opponent Annie Madeira with a final score of 10-9. At No. 7, Wadhwa fell 3-1 after a hard-fought 10-8 victory in game number two, and No. 9 Katherine Ettinger ’10 also eked out a second-game 10-9 victory before an eventual 3-1 Quaker win. No. 5 Alexandra Van Arkel ’12 took a tough 3-0 loss at the hands of Alisha Turner, who last year was named first team All-Ivy and second team All-America.

No. 4 Rhetta Nadas also refused to back down even when the loss of her first two games saw her playing with a 2-0 deficit. She won the third game 9-3, and by snagging the next two victories 9-0, 9-6, she clinched the match for herself and tied the Quakers and Bulldogs at four wins apiece. And although Lange defeated Greer in the final match of the meeting, the contest was by no means a Yale failure.

“I think rather than Penn having an ultimate edge, we showed up to play and it wasn’t our day,” Wadhwa explained. “We weren’t as sharp as we would have liked to be, but we have made leaps and bounds since we played them last year.”

This weekend, the Elis will compete in the U.S. Team Championships, which will be held in the Brady Squash Center from Dec. 12 to Dec. 14.