The No. 2 Harvard women’s squash team cruised to its third 9-0 victory over No. 8 Brown in three years in both teams’ season opener on Friday. The Crimson (1-0, 1-0 Ivy) did not drop a single game in the match as it begins its quest for its fourth straight Ivy championship.
Returning in the top two spots in the ladder were co-captain Louisa Hall and junior Lindsey Wilkins, respectively, who dropped a combined 11 points in their individual matches. Hall is the intercollegiate No. 3, while Wilkins is No. 6.
“Our strengths are at the top of the ladder,” Crimson coach Satinder Bajwa said. “I think Louisa and Lindsey are able to win against anybody.”
Hall played on the U.S. team that won the gold in the Pan American Games in the Dominican Republic this summer. Bajwa believes that experience will help Hall, Harvard’s No. 1 player since her freshman year, compete for the individual crown this season. She got sick before the Collegiate Squash Association Individual Championship last year and was unable to participate.
“I’ve always felt every year that she should win the intercollegiate, so it might happen this year,” Bajwa said. “We’re going to focus on that and try to do the best we can.”
On the opposite side of collegiate experience from the veteran Hall, freshmen Audrey Duboc and Lydia Williams debuted for the Crimson on Friday. Duboc played at No. 3, while Williams played No. 4.
But the fact that the two freshmen haven’t yet played at the collegiate level doesn’t mean they don’t bring loads of experience to Harvard. Both boast impressive resumes on the junior circuit. Duboc played on the 2003 U.S. junior team and competed in the World Junior Championships in Egypt during the summer.
“She’s performed tremendously this year,” Bajwa said of Duboc during the preseason.
The freshmen’s experience—coupled with the return of seven of the Crimson’s top nine—is a huge positive for Harvard, which anticipates a much tougher defense of the Ivy title this year. The Crimson lost 5-4 to Yale during the preseason Ivy scrimmages, when the Bulldogs were without their top two players.
“We have a larger portion of upperclassmen on the team now, which definitely changes things,” junior co-captain and intercollegiate No. 29 Hilary Thorndike said. “When it comes to the matches, people will be more experienced. Audrey and Lydia are great competitors.”
Harvard had been competing in the scrimmages without sophomore intercollegiate No. 15 Moira Weigel and junior Stephanie Hendricks. At Brown (0-1, 0-1 Ivy), Williams moved a notch higher on the ladder than Bajwa had predicted during the preseason because Weigel, the Crimson’s No. 3 last year, is still deciding whether she will play this season or focus only on her studies. Hendricks won at No. 8.
Bajwa has asked Weigel to inform him of her final decision immediately after Thanksgiving break. If Weigel returns, she will be a force to be reckoned with, especially since she will slide down a slot to No. 4.
“If we get her back, we might be on track to get that fourth Ivy title,” Bajwa said.
Meanwhile, Hendricks will compete this year despite lingering ankle problems that will likely result in surgery in the offseason. Her return should greatly strengthen the bottom of Harvard’s ladder as it prepares for an uphill climb back to the top of the Ivies.
“Year in and year out we tend to surprise one of these teams,” Bajwa said of No. 1 Trinity and No. 3 Yale. “Our first goal, our immediate goal is to try and win that Ivy title. That could lead to the national title anyway. [The Bulldogs and the Bantams] are so strong that beating one could mean beating the other.”
The Crimson’s next competition is another Ivy League match, with Harvard hosting Cornell on Dec. 6.
—Staff writer Brenda E. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.