After a nail-biting 5-4 win two weekends ago in New Haven to take the Ivy League crown, the spectators at the Murr Center expected a similar battle when the Harvard women’s squash team found itself pitted against Yale for the College Squash Association National Team Championships.
But the matchup between the two historic rivals on Sunday was anything but even, as the No. 1 Crimson dominated the No. 2 Bulldogs from beginning to end, taking home the team’s 13th national championship, 8-1, in front of a fiery home crowd.
Harvard (17-0, 7-0 Ivy) took control of the match early behind captain Nirasha Guruge’s decisive 3-0 victory against Yale captain Rhetta Nadas and only required six games to clinch the squad’s second Howe Cup in three years.
The Crimson won its three contests by a combined score of 26-1, sweeping Dartmouth on Friday and Trinity on Saturday, 9-0.
“All of the background stuff, all of the training showed up this weekend,” Harvard coach Mike Way said. “Everyone was ready to play physically, and with no injured players, it’s a testament to what our training program is all about. So all in all, I’m a happy camper.”
HARVARD 8, YALE 1
Co-captain Cece Cortes earned Harvard’s fifth victory in commanding fashion, taking the fourth game of her match with junior Katie Bellaine, 11-1, to grab the 3-1 win.
The scene as Cortes stepped off of the court and was surrounded by her teammates was not a raucous or uncontrolled, but rather a quiet and private celebration of a team which had finally accomplished its goal.
“On paper, we have always been the team to beat, and we just had to come and meet our potential,” Cortes said.
The result was in stark comparison to the matchup for the Ancient Eight crown, in which the Crimson had to battle back from 4-2 down and sweep the last series of matches to maintain its undefeated season.
Harvard started out on the right foot with Guruge making quick work of Nadas, earning the straight-set victory on the glass court, 11-2, 11-5, 11-9.
But on the other side of the Murr Center, Nadas’ Yale (17-2, 6-1 Ivy) teammates were making life hard for the Crimson.
Harvard freshman Megan Murray fell to freshman Issey Norman-Ross in straight sets in the No. 9 slot, and with the score tied at 1-1, junior No. 6 Natasha Kingshott was engaged in a competitive matchup.
Kingshott and Yale sophomore Gwen Tilghman battled deep into extra points, with the pair trading points back and forth. But Kingshott was able to pull away and took the second game, 19-17, to take the 2-0 lead. The junior finished out the match in a shorter third game, 11-6.
And with the Crimson in the early lead, the second round of matchups went all Harvard’s way.