The last time the Harvard women’s squash team hit the court, the Crimson came away with a dominating 8-1 victory over archrival Yale at the CSA National Championships.
In its 2011-12 campaign, Harvard strung together 17 consecutive victories, culminating in its second national championship title in the past three years.
The Crimson, which returns the bulk of its starting roster from last season, is ranked first in the country in the preseason polls.
“Being at number one, there’s a bit of pressure on us now,” sophomore Amanda Sobhy said. “People are going to be after us.”
Harvard will have the opportunity to live up to its expectations when it kicks off its season this Friday. The team will travel to neighboring MIT, opening a round-robin tournament against Boston College.
“We’ve been training hard so far and we’re looking forward to the season, especially to kick things off this weekend,” Sobhy said.
A common theme from last year’s impressive season was the standout play of Sobhy in her rookie campaign. Despite missing the first part of the season, Sobhy finished the year with a flawless 15-0 record, earning first-team All-American accolades while also nabbing Rookie and Ivy League Player of the Year honors.
Sobhy capped her perfect season with an individual victory at the national championships, topping then-reigning national champion, Yale’s Millie Tomlinson, in straight games.
“I’m trying to improve as always,” Sobhy said. “I’m also [trying] to repeat as individual champion and do everything I can to help out the team, so we can win the national championships again this year.”
The sophomore will be at the helm of what looks to be another strong Crimson lineup.
Senior Laura Gemmell—the 2010 individual national champion and three-time first team All-American—looks to be a strong force in the Crimson’s number two spot. The senior finished last season with a 14-2 record, good for the third highest winning percentage of any Harvard player last year.
The end of last season saw the departure of former co-captains Nirasha Guruge ’12 and Cece Cortes ’12, who played in the third and fifth positions, respectively. But a strong incoming freshman class should help fill the void.
Freshmen Isabelle Dowling, Saumya Karki, and Gemmell’s younger sister, Michelle, all enter their first collegiate season with impressive high school resumes. The three are expected to make an immediate impact on the team as part of the top nine.
“They’ve added a really great dynamic to the team,” co-captain Sarah Mumanachit said of the freshmen. “They have some big shoes to fill, but I think they are ready for the challenge and ready to step up.”
Though the team has yet to compete in any official matches, the Crimson has already garnered some competitive experience. Last weekend, Harvard competed against other Ivy League schools in an informal scrimmage match hosted by Yale. The injury-hampered Crimson squad placed third on the weekend.