After dominating the Ivy League for the past two years, the Harvard women's squash team--the nation's number-one squad--will find the road to an Ivy and national championship a little tougher.
The Crimson has captured two consecutive Ivy and national titles. Last year, the Crimson finished the season with a 7-0 record (5-0 Ivy). Harvard is also riding a 15-game winning streak.
"We're looking forward to the season," Harvard Coach Steve Piltch said. "It should be an excellent season. We're not as talented as we were the past couple of seasons."
Harvard enters this year without Diana Edge and Lucy Miller--both of whom graduated. Edge won two intercollegiate individual titles and never lost a dual-match during her career.
The Crimson will look to Tri-Captains Jenny Holleran, Sheila Morrissey and Liz Reynolds for leadership. Holleran is taking the first semester off, but she will return for the start of the Ivy season.
Other players returning from last year's Ivy championship team are Stephanie Clark, Hope Nichols, Mary Cist, and Daphne Onderdonk. Nichols and Cist are seasoned veterans, while Clark and Onderdonk both made big contributions as freshmen last season.
While Ivy rival Princeton is getting all of the praise for its freshmen recuits, the Crimson has a talented group of freshmen also. Like the Tigers, Harvard's freshmen are expected to play key roles this season.
Harvard's top freshmen are Mary Greenhill, the younger sister of Harvard men's squash player Bobby Greenhill, Brooke Bailey and Carrie Cunningham.
Former tennis players Martha Berkman and Louise Zonis, who have converted to squash, round out the Crimson's line-up.
"Louise and Martha are very good athletes," Piltch said. "They have excellent racquet skills. We wish they had played the game as freshmen."
Since 1983, the Crimson has posted a 27-3 Ivy record and an 40-3 overall record. Last season, Harvard posted big wins over Yale, 8-1, and Princeton, 8-1. It was Princeton's worst loss in 18 years.
But this year, Princeton is not just favored to win the national title. It is expected to dominate the way Harvard did last year. Yale is not far behind the Crimson and the Tigers.
"Princeton and Yale are incredibly strong," Piltch said. "Princeton is the clear cut favorite to win it all."
Returning for her final season is Princeton's Demer Holleran, two-time defending intercollegiate champion, and five freshmen, all from Brooklyn Heights. It has been called the best recruiting year for any team in the history of collegiate women's squash. Four of the freshmen were ranked in the junior circuit's top 10.
Penn's Nicky Hitchens--the Ivy League's leading scorer with eight goals and four assists--has been named the Ivy League Player of the Year by the league coaches.
Harvard freshman Ceci Clark earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors. The freshman also received All-Ivy honorable-mention recognition. Clark collected two points (one goal, one assist) and recorded three defensive saves from her back position during league play. Harvard's Erin O'Brien earned first-team All Ivy honors, while Char Joslin was named to the second-team.
Quote of the Week
"We haven't even hit Ivy play and this team has already given me my yearly dosage of grey hairs."--Yale women's basketball coach Diann Nestel joked after a nerve-racking 62-55 victory over Navy.