Sobhy and Farag Capture Squash National Titles

SOARIN' SOBHY
Emily T. Wang

Amanda Sobhy, shown here in previous action, captured her third consecutive national title on Sunday.

After a one-year hiatus on the men’s side, both the Ramsay and Pool Cups are coming back to Harvard in 2014.

Junior Amanda Sobhy defeated Trinity’s Kanzy El Defrawy in three games for the second consecutive year to capture her third straight national title on the women’s side, while senior Ali Farag avenged last year’s semifinal loss to St. Lawrence’s Amr Khaled Khalifa with a 3-1 win in the finals.

The Ramsay Cup win was just another part of a remarkable year for Sobhy, who finished the season with a perfect 17-0 record. No collegiate player was able to take a single game from the Harvard junior, who is the first player in program history to win the Ramsay Cup three times.

“It feels really good [to win a third time],” Sobhy said. “I’m just pumped to play well. There’s always the pressure of being the number one seed but I try to not let that get to me. I just try to play well. Winning it three times in a row is really great, and hopefully I’ll win a fourth next year, too.”

The finals marked the third time that Sobhy had faced El Defrawy this year, with the last occurring at the No. 1 position in the team finals. Sobhy easily dispatched the Trinity sophomore in the two previous instances, and the pattern continued on Sunday. Sobhy swept El Defrawy with scores of 11-6, 11-5, and 11-3.

“[El Defrawy] and I…both know [each other’s] games pretty well,” Sobhy said. “She’s a very feisty player, very talented, so I always have to make sure that I come out strong from the beginning because once she gets the momentum she can be really, really good. There’s always that little bit of nerves from the beginning playing her, but I think after I settled [in] I played very well.”

Farag followed up with a slightly more dramatic win an hour later. A year after Khalifa upset Farag in five games in the semifinals, the sophomore opened up this season’s national title defense with an 11-6 win over Farag in the first game.

Farag appeared to be in trouble when Khalifa proceeded to take a 6-2 lead in the second game, but the Harvard senior won the next four points to tie up the game, 6-all. The two battled back-and-forth to send the game to tiebreakers, where Farag managed to come away with a 13-11 win, knotting up the match at one game apiece.

After winning the second game, Farag took control of the championship match. The senior pulled away in the third game to take a one game lead before defeating Khalifa, 11-4, in the final frame, notching the Pool Cup victory.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match today because we’ve grown up playing against each other,” Farag said. “I’ve been thinking about this match for a year, so I didn’t want to put pressure on myself, but I was happy with the way I played today and obviously I’m happy with the result.”

The senior also received the 2014 Skillman Award—given to a player who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship throughout his career—at the championships this weekend. Farag finished his final collegiate year with two national championships, as his team won Harvard’s 31st men’s squash title two weeks ago.

“I’ve been looking for this for two years now,” Farag said. “Ever since I was a sophomore, I’ve been waiting for this moment to win both the team and the individual championships at the same time. I think the team, along with the captains and the coaches, has a job to be able to pull out the wins, and I think [we’ve] succeeded.”

The Harvard squash program sent four other players to the individual championships this weekend. Junior co-captain Haley Mendez represented Harvard on the women’s side, while seniors Brandon McLaughlin and Nigel Koh as well as freshman Brian Koh represented the men’s team.

Mendez made it to the quarterfinals for the first time in her collegiate career after sweeping Stanford’s Madeleine Gill and Princeton’s Elizabeth Eyre in the first two rounds. The junior’s championship run came to an end when she played Sobhy in the quarterfinals, as Sobhy took an 11-4, 11-3, 11-1 decision from her teammate.

—Staff writer Glynis K. Healey can be reached at ghealey@college.harvard.edu.

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