After its first loss in nearly two years, the Harvard women’s squash team wasn’t about to let defeat become a pattern.
Following a narrow 5-4 loss to Princeton last week, the second-ranked Crimson (7-1, 2-1 Ivy) took on no. 16 Hamilton (2-6) and no. 9 Amherst (8-4) at the Pioneer Round Robin at the Jeffs’ Davenport Courts. Harvard bounced back from its only loss of the season in decisive fashion on Saturday afternoon, sweeping both teams for a combined 18-0 tally.
“We came out really strong, and I think the results speak for themselves,” co-captain Natasha Kingshott said. “Especially coming off of a tough weekend, we really looked at this week to regroup and look forward, and I think that these matches, although they’re not quite the same test that our Ivy matches are, inspire us to keep moving forward as we approach Columbia and Cornell in two weeks and Trinity and Yale.”
The interlude between Ivy play not only gave the Crimson a chance to rebound from the Tigers, but also offered an opportunity to give less experienced players a chance to compete as part of the nine scoring matches.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for girls on the low end of the ladder to get competitive matches,” Kingshott said. “Only the top nine play, but we do have a roster of 16, and the girls at the bottom put in as many hours and contribute as much to the team as the top nine, so for a lot of the girls to step up and show the hard work that they put in is really wonderful.”
Although last week’s setback at the hands of Princeton was foreign to a team that hadn’t lost since 2011, assistant coach Luke Hammond notes that the match gave the team pieces to work on that led to the victories this weekend.
“I think the confidence has been coming back for many of them individually all week,” Hammond said. “We’ve been going back, working on things, working on the mental aspect of the game and really trying to work everybody back to top form. A bunch of the girls who didn’t play well against Princeton have been playing better over the course of the week, so we’re feeling pretty good now.”
HARVARD 9, AMHERST 0
After routing the Continentals earlier in the day, the Crimson continued its show of dominance, dropping only three games en route to its 9-0 victory over the home team.
The closest contests came at the bottom of the ladder, in the matches of eighth-seeded junior Natasha Anzik and ninth-seeded junior Georgiana Brinkley. Anzik won the first game but dropped the next two before coming back strong to take the fourth and fifth games, downing her opponent, 3-2. Brinkley scored a 3-1 victory, losing her third game before notching an 11-4 victory in the fourth.
“For Natasha Anzik and Georgie Brinkley to get time on court today and really have a full team out in support for them was great,” Kingcott said.
Despite playing Hamilton just a few hours before taking to the courts to face Amherst, the team showed little sign of fatigue, with its top seven posting shutouts across the board.
“Some weekends [fatigue] can be a factor, but this weekend I don’t think it was too bad,” Hammond said. “We had a couple hours for lunch, so they weren’t too close together. It was a pretty early wakeup call, they had to wake up at 6 AM, so there was that factor, but I don’t think the kids were too tired.”
Freshman Isabelle Dowling, who moved from the no. 8 spot to the fourth seed, played two hotly contested games against her opponent, winning her first and third games, 12-10.
HARVARD 9, HAMILTON 0
The Crimson started out its day with a rout over the Continentals, winning each match 3-0. The battle was the first ever between Harvard and Hamilton.
“I don’t remember ever playing Hamilton before, so it’s always good to play new schools,” senior Laura Gemmel said. “Everyone was excited, it’s always exciting to play a team for the first time.”
Despite not playing the normally top-seeded sophomore Amanda Sobhy or fifth-seeded Saumya Karki, Harvard had no problems taking care of business against Hamilton, with the closest game coming in an 11-8 victory for Dowling in her shutout of Isabelle Weisman.
“[Sitting out Sobhy and Karki] was really to do with the fact that we want those girls who are usually right on the edge of being able to play in the nine,” Hammond said. “We like to get them into the official nine if we can. But we still have to respect them and be careful with Hamilton and Amherst, because those are two good teams.”