Last year, the Harvard women’s squash team (12-1, 6-1 Ivy) wrested the Howe Cup from Yale at the 2012 CSA National Championships. The Crimson stepped easily over its opponents, dropping only one match for a 26-1 total tally for the tournament.
This season, with title in hand, the team showed that it would not lose its momentum. Harvard has powered through a successful season with very few bumps along the way. The team now faces the challenge of defending its win on the home court of its Connecticut rival. The host of this year’s national championship, Yale (11-4, 4-3) has its eyes set on the title after last year’s second place finish.
The Crimson wrapped up its Ivy competition last weekend with a match against Yale. Though Harvard beat the Bulldogs in a comfortable 7-2 win, co-captain Sarah Mumanachit showed that the team can compete in a pinch by overtaking her opponent in the fifth game for a 3-2 win.
The Crimson enters this weekend with a near-perfect regular season record. Harvard did not let a midseason loss to Princeton (11-0, 7-0) break its stride. Looking forward, the Crimson is eager for another shot at the Tigers but will use its previous defeat to inform its approach. Co-captain Natasha Kingshott sees no reason to allow Princeton to shake the team’s confidence, should the draw pit them together.
“We have nothing to lose,” Kingshott said. “We’ve learned so much from our previous loss that we’re going to rise to the occasion. We’re really looking forward to another shot at it.”
Undefeated on the season, the Tigers look to be a top threat to take home the title this year. Princeton dropped a 7-2 decision against Yale in last year’s national semifinals, then fell to Trinity by the same margin in the consolation round.
After this year’s regular season loss to the Tigers, Harvard rattled off seven straight wins. The team immediately trounced Hamilton and Amherst in a clean sweep and proceeded to finish the regular season without suffering another defeat.
The team benefits from strong players in every class. The talented class of 2015 is looking forward to its second opportunity to play in the national championship. They continue to support the team by supplying three out of the six players with undefeated records in the regular season, and they look to bring a new level of maturity with another season under their belts.
“We’ve matured a lot from last year,” sophomore Amanda Sobhy said. “We’ve learned from mistakes and gotten a lot [smarter] on court. We’re playing mature squash, and we’re doing a lot better.”
Though the sophomores are a tough act to follow, the class of 2016 is bringing a solid record to its first national championship. Freshman Allie Sperry went undefeated in the regular season, and her classmates played important roles in bringing about many of the team’s victories.
“The freshmen have been great,” Sobhy said. “They’ve been really great assets to the team. They’ve been working hard and they’ve been doing really well.”
In hopes of defending a national title, the Crimson is practicing at an intensity that keeps the team just under the breaking point. The team’s leadership will head up the attempt to strike the right combination.
“I think it’s a fine balance between pushing yourself at a really high, intense level, and not burning out,” Kingshott said. “Each player is taking the initiative in their individual training.”
With the national championship just a few days away, the team is sticking to business as usual.
“I don’t think we’re really changing anything,” Mumanachit said. “Now it’s just crossing our t’s and dotting our i’s.”
Harvard looks to begin this weekend’s matches with the same level of energy and intensity it has carried thus far this season.
“We’re making sure we’re hungry and [that] we’re approaching this weekend with an upward momentum,” Kingshott said. “It’s a shame we won’t have the same home support we did last year, but we’re a resilient team, and we’re going to walk into that facility ready to play in any situation, in any environment, against any opponent.”