Women's Squash Outlasts Trinity

After two close opening games, freshman Saumya Karki and sophomore Julianne Chu found themselves playing catch-up. But Harvard’s No. 5 and No. 8 rallied to win each of their next three games, as the No. 2 Crimson women’s squash team (10-1, 4-1 Ivy) swept the second wave to clinch a 7-2 team victory over No. 4 Trinity (14-2).

“I couldn’t be happier with the team’s performance today,” co-captain Natasha Kingshott said. “Individually, [in] each match a lot of girls who have been kind of working on certain areas of weakness really stepped up today and really proved that they are really learning from every match and building.”

Harvard sealed the deal during the second rotation of the night, as wins from Chu, Karki, and No. 2 Laura Gemmell put the Crimson up, 5-1. Although the wave was Harvard’s only perfect rotation, it produced some of the Crimson’s closest match-ups of the evening.

Gemmell defeated Bantams junior tri-captain Catalina Palaez in four closely-contested sets at the No. 2 position, 12-10, 10-12, 11-8, 11-7. Gemmell and Harvard No. 1 Amanda Sobhy remain undefeated this year.

At the No. 5 position, Karki dropped her first game before taking three tight sets to best Trinity tri-captain Robyn Hodgson, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9.

Chu similarly gritted out four close games at the No. 8 position to earn Harvard’s decisive fifth win of the night. The sophomore edged Bantams junior Jennifer Pellentier, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10,11-8.

“They were able to come back and win, which showed really good character,” freshman Michelle Gemmell said of Chu and Karki. “I was really proud of them.”

Harvard emerged victorious at the top five positions Wednesday evening. The Crimson opened with a strong 2-1 performance in the first wave.

At the No. 9 position, Isabelle Dowling defeated Trinity sophomore Chanel Erasmus, 11-7, 13-11, 11-7. Kingshott fell to Bantams sophomore Natalie Babjukova, 5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9, at the No. 6 position.

At the No. 3 position, Haley Mendez took Harvard’s only five-game win of the night. The sophomore rallied from 1-0 to beat Trinity junior Wee Nee Low, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 6-11, 11-3.

After the Crimson sealed the win in the second wave, the final rotation was just a formality. But in an interesting development, Amanda Sobhy’s streak of perfection came to an end.

The sophomore skated through her rookie season, posting a perfect 15-0 record without losing a set and earning all-Ivy and Player and Rookie of the Year honors.

This year, she kept the streak going through four matches, starting each at the No. 1 position. Although she picked up her fifth win tonight, it came at the cost of her perfect collegiate record.

The reigning CSA champion dropped a game for the first time in her college career, as Trinity freshman Kanzy El Defrawy earned the first point at the No. 1 position Wednesday evening. Starting from an unfamiliar position, Sobhy nevertheless swept to victory with convincing wins in the next three games, defeating El Defrawy, 6-11, 11-2, 11-6, 11-3, to give Harvard its seventh and final individual match of the night.

Michelle Gemmell also won for the Crimson at the No. 4 position with a three-game win over Bantams sophomore Ashley Tidman, 11-8, 13-11, 11-6. Trinity freshman Sachika Balvani defeated Harvard co-captain Sarah Mumanachit, 5-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8.

The win was Harvard’s first against a top-5 opponent after the Crimson’s 5-4 loss to Princeton earlier this month.

“I think it gives us a huge vote of confidence, especially after Princeton,” Kingshott said. “We put in so much work, identifying areas of improvement, and the performances of the team as a whole and in the individual matches was a testament to how strong our training has been.

“Trinity had a close match with Yale two weeks ago, so this was a good litmus test for us going into the weekend,” Kingshott added.

Harvard will visit Brown today before hosting Yale on Sunday to close out its regular season. The CSA Team Championships begin a week from this Friday.

Staff writer Michael D. Ledecky can be reached at mledecky@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @mdledecky.

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