The Harvard women's squash team may not officially be national champions, but after the Crimson's victory this past weekend at the Howe Cup Tournament held at Yale University's Payne Whitney Gym, there can be little doubt that Harvard is the best team in the country.
The Crimson edged defending national champion and top-ranked Princeton University, 5-4, in Sunday's final match, to virtually clinch the top ranking in the nation.
"On paper, Princeton was better," co-Captain Hope Nichols said. "They had more top-ranked players, but we were better trained."
The Crimson tomahawked its opponents all weekend in the round-robin tournament in which the twenty-four best teams in the country battled-it-out for the top spot in their respective divisions.
The tournament started out well on Friday, as Harvard crushed Penn, 8-1, and Franklin and Marshall, 9-0.
The devastation continued on Saturday, as the Crimson knocked off Yale, 7-2 and Trinity College, 8-1.
"Our first four matches went well," Captain Jen Holleran said. "We did just what we hoped to do going into the final match on Sunday."
Harvard certainly looked unstoppable going into the final against Princeton. However, Princeton was also undefeated and was playing very well. The Tigers had beaten their opponents easily throughout the tournament and were gearing up for a tough final.
When these two teams met just a week earlier, Harvard eeked out a 5-4 win. The Tigers seemed determined to avenge that loss and came out playing hard.
The Tigers took a 4-3 lead into the final two matches, but the Crimson refused to fold. Sophomore Mary Greenhill provided inspiration by thrashing her Tiger opponent.
"When Mary [Greenhill] crushed her opponent, the momentum changed," Nichols said. "Then we all began to play better."
Senior Grace Sheffield set up a decisive thriller by narrowly beating the same opponent she had lost to in Harvard and Princeton's first meeting, 3-2.
In an emotional game, sophomore slugger Carrie Cunningham then seized the victory, beating her opponent in the final game also by a score of 3-2.
"It was a fantastic close to a great weekend," Nichols said. "Every match was important and everyone came through when it counted most."
The Crimson has two matches left in its season against a weak Dartmouth team and Yale. If Harvard captures both these matches, it will be the undisputed national champion.
In other division of the Howe Cup, Brown finished first in Division II, Smith nabbed the Divsion III title, and Colby emerged the victor in Division IV.