Sophomore Julianne Chu, shown here in previous action, defeated Brown’s Skylar Murphy in straight sets, 11-5, 11-7, 11-3, on Friday. The Crimson swept the Bears, 9-0, only dropping two sets in the process. Chu is 7-0 this season, one of seven undefeated Harvard women.
Coming off a big win over No. 4 Trinity the night before, the No. 2 Harvard women’s squash team (11-1, 5-1 Ivy) picked up another win against a top-tier opponent. The Crimson took down No. 9 Brown (11-6, 1-5 Ivy) in a Thursday night contest at Brodsky Memorial Squash Pavilion.
“We were really excited [about the win],” co-captain Natasha Kingshott said. “After coming off [the win against] Trinity, we were kind of on a high. We have just been keeping that momentum going.”
The match was originally set for Friday but was moved up a day early due to inclement weather. The schedule meant that Harvard played matches on back-to-back nights, but fatigue seemed to be a non-factor in the Crimson’s 9-0 routing of the Bears.
“Physically, we are a little run down, and mentally, you [have] to keep the fire going,” Kingshott said. “The season is really long. It’s back loaded with our Ivy matches now but we’ve been playing since September and have had matches since November. We want to stay focused.”
It was back to business as usual for sophomore Amanda Sobhy, who won her match 3-0. The sophomore entered Thursday’s contest coming of a match in which she dropped the first game of her collegiate career to Trinity’s Kanzy El Defrawy.
“Trying to stay undefeated and 3-0, I definitely put a little more pressure on myself in the match against Trinity,” Sobhy said. “But after I lost the first game, I realized you can’t always have a perfect streak. Going into Brown, there was no need to be nervous or put any extra pressure on myself.”
Sobhy had little trouble taking down Dori Rahbar of the Bears. Playing in the No. 1 spot, the reigning national champion had the most dominating performance of the night, dishing out 11-1, 11-2, 11-5 wins to move to 5-0 on the year.
“She’s just a top class competitor,” Kingshott said. “She handles both her wins and losses in the game with grace. I think she’s in a great place, mentally and physically.”
Senior Laura Gemmell picked up another convincing win in the No. 2 position. Gemmell took down Brown’s Mina Shakarashy, 3-0, with 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 victories. With the win, the senior is now 9-0 on the season.
Kingshott picked up her tenth win of the season by posting another 3-0 victory in the No. 5 slot with 11-3, 11-8, 11-5 wins over Isabel Pitaro. Classmate Eliza Calihan, playing in the No. 9 position, recorded the only game loss for Harvard on the night. But Calihan still rolled to a 3-1 victory after going 11-5, 2-11, 11-9, 11-6.
Playing in the No. 3 spot, sophomore Haley Mendez handled her opponent with 11-4, 11-8, and 11-6 wins to pick up another point for the Crimson. Classmate Julianne Chu, who was out due to injury for much of the season’s earlier matches, remained undefeated on the year with a 11-5, 11-7, 11-3 victory in the No. 6 slot. Sophomore Megan Murray also picked up a win for the Crimson, topping her opponent 11-9, 11-7, 11-7 in the No. 7 slot.
First years Saumya Karki and Isabelle Dowling rounded out the matches in the top nine. Karki had an easy time at No. 4, boasting 11-3, 11-7, 11-4 wins, while classmate Dowling had a similarly took care of business in the No. 8 slot, posting a convincing 11-7, 11-7, 11-5 victory.
“We played really solidly,” Sobhy said. “Everyone pretty much came out there to play. We wasted little time and did our best.”
Coming off back-to-back wins at the end of the week, Harvard will have little time to rest. The team will hit the courts on Sunday afternoon for its regular season finale against Yale. The contest will be a rematch of last year’s CSA Team Final, in which the Crimson rolled to an 8-1 victory to take the national title.
“It’s Harvard-Yale,” Kingshott said. “It’s always an exciting, fun match to play. They’re great opponents. It’s competitive. It’s really great to have the home court advantage.”
The Crimson’s strong play of late against top-ranked opponents bodes well for Harvard as it looks down the line towards the CSA Team Championships, to be held next weekend in New Haven.
“We all realize how important the end of the season is,” Kingshott said. “Staying mentally up for these matches is relatively easy. We’re excited to finally be here.”
—Staff writer Brenna R. Nelsen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @BrennaRaeN.