Racquetwomen Pursue Howe Cup
National Tournament Invites at Yale Every College Program in the Country
National rankings these days are a farce.
Institutions like the Associated Press, CNN and USA Today decide which team gets to go to what bowl. The NCAA uses nebulous statistics like "power ratings" to decide who to invite to national tournaments.
The system can sometimes be arbitrary and unfair. Unless the sport is women's squash.
Women's squash in this country has the best possible way of deciding who has the best team in the country: every college team is invited to a tournament, and may the best squad win.
It's called the Howe Cup, and it's held this weekend at Yale.
"This is the women's tournament," Harvard Co-Captain Cathy Shergalis said. "You can see every level of play. You get to see teams you've never seen before."
This year, the strong Harvard squad (5-0 overall, 4-0 Ivy) is favored to win for the first time in three years.
"Considering we're undefeated, yeah, I'd say we've got a pretty good chance to win," sophomore Libby Eynon said. Eynon is the second-ranked player on the team.
The teams are split into four divisions by quality of program. Harvard plays in the top division with schools like Yale, Princeton, Trinity and Pennsylvania.
The format of the tournament is round-robin, with each school playing six matches over the three days. At the end, the team with the best record wins.
A possible problem facing Harvard is a recent outbreak of flu which has hit junior Jordanna Fraiberg and Co-Captain Carrie Cunningham, the third- and fourth-ranked players on the team.
But according to Shergalis, a weakened Cunningham and Fraiberg will not hurt the team's overall chances.
"It's still very promising for us," Shergalis said.
In the meantime, the men will fly down to Philadelphia to take on Navy and Franklin and Marshall in a weekend doubleheader.
Harvard is favored in both, according to freshman Mike Oh.
"I don't foresee problems beating either team," Oh said. "Traditionally, they've been good squads but in terms of skill, we're the more talented team."
Of the two teams, Navy is expected to be the more difficult. The Midshipmen have a history of playing rough on the squash court, using their athleticism to make up for deficiencies in skill.
"Navy is supposed to be a very obnoxious team which will bump and shove you around the court," Oh said.
Navy's home crowd will also be factor. In order to ensure a sizable crowd, cadets are ordered to attend the squash match, resulting in a raucous and knowledgeable crowd, according to senior Josh Horwitz.
"They really don't have a clue what squash is," Horwitz said. "They'll cheer in the middle of points."
Franklin and Marshall has already lost to Pennsylvania, a team which Harvard defeated 9-0 earlier this month, so that match is not expected to be as competitive.
If the Crimson remains undefeated, it will face Yale this Wednesday in a showdown for the national title. Yale plays Princeton this weekend and is expected to win.
THE NOTEBOOK: A chronic hip injury has put junior Jon Karlen on the sidelines for the rest of the season....Captain Adrian Ezra has strep throat and will not make the trip this weekend.