Despite just eking out wins against Yale and Princeton during the regular season, the Harvard women’s squash team was untouchable when it mattered most.
On the way to securing its second national title in three years—and 13th all-time—Harvard went 17-0, culminating in a victory over its Ancient Eight rival, the Bulldogs.
“The Howe Cup was when the team stepped up and really showed their courage, work, work ethic, and their abilities,” Crimson coach Mike Way says. “The results speak for themselves. It was just awesome.”
The final match of the 2012 CSA National Team Championships was not even close. The Crimson quickly separated itself from Yale, the No. 2 team in the nation, and carved out a decisive 8-1 victory at Barnaby Courts. The Bulldogs took home just five games to Harvard’s 24 on the day, as six Harvard players swept their respective Yale opponents.
“We were thrilled to sweep them off the court quickly,” freshman Haley Mendez says. “The older players especially were all really happy we were able to get revenge for last year’s loss.”
With the win, the Crimson also earned a taste of retribution in what was a rematch of last season’s title contest. The Bulldogs came out on top in 2010-11, sneaking by Harvard, 5-4, in the finals, thrashing any hopes of a repeat for the then-defending national champions.
But the Howe Cup was all Crimson this year. Before taking down Yale, Harvard dismantled No. 8 Dartmouth and No. 4 Trinity, both by scores of 9-0. The Crimson swept 16 of its 18 individual matches in the first two rounds of competition, allowing the Big Green and the Bantams to take home zero and four games, respectively.
And those are just the team-wide accomplishments.
Six Harvard players—more than any other college team—competed in the Ramsay Division of the 2012 CSA Individual Championships. The Crimson boasted three of eight quarterfinalists in co-captain Cece Cortes, junior Laura Gemmell, and freshman Amanda Sobhy.
Sobhy and Gemmell both advanced to the semifinals, and the freshman eventually claimed the individual championship with a dominant win over the defending titleholder, Yale’s Millie Tomlinson.
“Everyone I think was expecting Amanda to win, so that put a lot of pressure on her,” Mendez says. “It was great to see her respond to the pressure and win without dropping a single game.”
Five Harvard players were honored on All-America teams, with Sobhy and Gemmell earning first-team accolades, and Cortes, co-captain Nirasha Guruge, and Mendez garnering places on the second team.
“I don’t think we could have had a better season, between the Ivy League title, the national title, and the individual title,” Mendez says. “We have a great group of girls and really bonded well. I couldn’t have asked for a better freshman year.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.