The Harvard women’s squash team entered the 2007-08 season following immense success last year, when Kyla Grigg ’07 won the ISA individual championships and the team took second place in the season-ending Howe Cup.
Riding on such successes, expectations ran high. However, the team lost captain Supriya Balsekar to injury before the season began and last year’s No. 2 Jen Blumberg left the team.
Playing with only underclassmen, the Crimson nevertheless put together a strong showing, finishing 7-5, 4-3 in the Ivy League.
“Before the season started, I felt we were a very deep team,” said sophomore No. 4 Johanna Snyder. “Playing with only sophomores and freshmen, we had to readjust, but I think we did really well for how young we are.”
Despite its youth, Harvard opened the season strong, winning its first five matches against Brown, Stanford, Williams, Dartmouth, and Cornell.
Harvard was led by impressive play from freshmen No. 1 June Tiong and No. 2 Alisha Mashruwala. Despite playing the top two flights without prior collegiate experience, both adapted quickly to the level of play and each started the season 5-0.
“There was a lot of pressure for me as I had not played as part of a team before,” Tiong said. “I felt that I needed to win at my spot for the team, as I did not want to let them down.”
Tiong and Mashruwala were awarded CSA All-American status, with Tiong finishing the year ranked fifth and Mashruwala seventh. Tiong was also voted Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
Despite the strong start, the early victories came against mostly second-tier opponents, and it wasn’t until February and March that the true tests began to roll in with matches against the nation’s top teams.
Although Balsekar returned to boost the lineup in the new year, the team was unable to match its early season success. During the first two weeks of February, the Crimson battled No. 1 Penn, No. 2 Princeton, No. 3 Yale, and No. 5 Trinity, dropping all four contests.
Against Penn, Harvard played a stellar match—the score was notted at three apiece heading into the final three matches. But the Crimson dropped two of three, managing only a Balsekar victory at No. 7 to fall, 5-4. Despite the defeat, players identified the match as their best of the season, considering the team had lost 9-0 to the Quakers in a preseason scrimmage.
“It was close and could have gone either way,” Tiong said. “That was a testament to the hard work that the coaches, captain, and team put in.”
Harvard faltered early in the season-ending Howe Cup, falling to Trinity 6-3 in the opening round. But the team rallied with 9-0 victories over Dartmouth and Stanford to finish fifth—a respectable mark, but a far cry from last year’s runner-up finish.
“It is evident that although we fell short, we do possess the talent of a national championship team,” said Balsekar, who went 6-1 after returning from injury. “I am proud of what we were able to accomplish this year.”
A week after the Howe Cup, Harvard sent seven players to compete in the CSA Individual Championships, in which the Crimson recorded some of its best results of the season.
Tiong advanced to the semifinals of the main bracket, the best performance for a freshman in the tournament, defeating former Crimson standout and 2006 national champion Lily Lorentzen of Stanford along the way.
Snyder, snubbed by the main draw, charged through the Holleran “B” draw as the top seed to take the title. Freshman Bethan Williams recorded one of the biggest upsets in tournament history by defeating the tournament’s No. 3 seed, Princeton’s Amanda Siebert, in the opening round.
—Staff writer Barrett P. Kenny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.