Sophomore phenom Laura Gemmell, shown above in earlier play, has been flawless over the past two seasons but couldn’t hold on to her undefeated streak in the finals of the CSA women’s individual championship. Gemmell lost to Yale’s Millie Tomlinson, 3-0, and failed to defend her title.
It is the second consecutive year that a freshman has become the Collegiate Squash Association (CSA) women’s individual champion. Last year, Harvard’s Laura Gemmell started her collegiate career with a perfect season, going 16-0 in the regular season and winning the 2010 Individual championship title.
This year, after a second undefeated regular season, it appeared that Gemmell would once again walk away with the national title and Ramsay Cup.
But the sophomore was unable to repeat last year’s performance, losing, 3-0, to Yale freshman Millie Tomlinson.
“It was definitely sad to see one of our own not winning this year,” sophomore Sarah Mumanachit said. “But it’s exciting to see new players coming into the college squash circuit each year and really bringing the level up and setting the bar even higher.”
“I think the pressure is lower as a freshmen, when you first come into college squash, so the expectations are lower as well,” captain Alisha Mashruwala added.
Tomlinson—who played No. 2 in Yale’s lineup this past season—entered the weekend’s tournament with a 15-1 regular-season record and advanced to the finals with a series of 3-0 wins. Gemmell advanced past her first round with a 3-0 win against Princeton’s Alexis Saunders. Cornell’s Jaime Laird proved to be a tougher opponent, but Gemmell ultimately won, 3-1, and came back with two more 3-0 wins in the quarter and semifinals.
In yesterday’s first game of the finals, Tomlinson took a quick 4-1 lead, but Gemmell fought back to tie things up at 10 points each. Tomlinson outlasted the sophomore, 12-10.
In the second set, Tomlinson again took an early lead that she never lost, winning, 11-3.
The third game was as close as the first, with Gemmell at one point tying the score, 9-9. Tomlinson was able to hold on and won, 11-9.
It was nearly an all-Crimson final as Harvard junior Nirasha Guruge was pitted against Tomlinson in the semifinal match. But the Yale player defeated Guruge, 3-0, winning the sets, 12-10, 11-6, and 11-4.
“Nirasha played probably the best squash I’ve ever seen her play before,” Mashruwala said. “She went in there, she was in it to win, and she blew everyone’s mind with the squash that she played. I’m very, very proud of her.”
Guruge made it to the semifinal round for the first time in her three years on the team by beating Yale’s No. 1 player, Logan Greer, 3-2.
“Nirasha’s a great player,” Mumanachit said. “She’s had some tough matches this season, but I really think that she proved her potential this tournament and I hope that she’s happy with her results. She had a great win against one of the Yale girls in the quarters. She was down two games and came back and fought hard to win the match in five against [Greer].”
“I just went into the match thinking if I win, I win, if I lose, I lose, because that’s what my coach always tells me,” Guruge said.
Gemmell and Guruge were not the only players representing Harvard in this past weekend’s CSA championship. The team sent seven of its top players to the national tournament, including sophomore Natasha Kingshott and junior Cece Cortes who faced off against one another in the Ramsay Division consolation finals.