As nice as it is to come out of the weekend with a win, the No. 4 Harvard women’s squash team has got to be itching for a real opponent by now. Unfortunately, the Crimson has two months to wait.
Harvard (4-0, 3-0 Ivy) blanked No. 11 Cornell 9-0 Saturday in Ithaca in its last game until February. Like every time the Crimson faces off against the Big Red (1-3, 0-3), it was hardly a contest—Harvard did not see a single match go to four games, and had several matches where Crimson players dropped no more than four points total. Freshman and intercollegiate No. 10 Jen Blumberg didn’t lose a single point in her 3-0 win at No. 3.
Heading into the match with the knowledge that Harvard has beaten Cornell for seven straight years, the team focused on improving specific types of shots and aspects of individual play like footwork.
“The coaches and I try to emphasize technical skills,” said co-captain and intercollegiate No. 7 Lindsey Wilkins. “You can be focused on how you’re playing when winning is kind of inevitable.”
Wilkins, who won her match at No. 2, 9-3, 9-0, 9-0, added that the easier competition allows players to be less conservative and take more risks than they would if the match were closer.
“We were working on self-improvement,” said senior Stephanie Hendricks, adding that an easy win doesn’t permit “sloppy” play. “It’s a different kind of challenge.”
Hendricks, playing at No. 8, won her match 9-1, 9-1, 9-3.
With the lighter half of the season over, the Crimson looks ahead to the definitive portion of its schedule.
The next match will be crucial bout with No. 2 Trinity on Feb. 3. The Bantams were national champions in 2002 and 2003, and have a stacked lineup of international players that will undoubtedly prove a difficult test for the Crimson.
But Trinity isn’t even the toughest team Harvard will face in February. Defending national and Ivy champion Yale, ranked first in the country, lies in the path of any women’s squash team looking to make a run at the national title.
The Bulldogs face off against Trinity on Jan. 26, so one of the titans must face Harvard with a loss. The Crimson will be looking to exploit any weakness it can find, both in the dual match and at the Howe Cup team championship, which determines the national champion.
The key to beating those teams, Wilkins said, is “a combination of staying healthy, staying fit, and staying focused.”
To prepare for February’s competition, Harvard will undergo an intense practice schedule throughout reading period and finals, culminating in a training trip to San Francisco over the intersession break. The Crimson will get a chance to hone its skills against unfamiliar club teams and male opponents, and be, as Hendricks said, “totally saturated with squash.”
“It’ll be helpful for us to play different types of matches,” Wilkins added, “to get mentally and physically ready for February.”
—Staff writer Lisa J. Kennelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.