Undefeated since February of 2009, the Harvard women’s squash team looked like the best team in the country. The Crimson’s easy 7-2 win over No. 3 Trinity on Wednesday seemed to cement that status.
But that all changed Saturday afternoon.
In a tightly contested Ivy League Championship match, No. 1 Harvard (9-1, 5-1 Ivy) fell to No. 2 Yale (14-0, 5-0) at the Barnaby Courts, 5-4.
“It was a close, competitive match,” sophomore Laura Gemmell said. “Our team played well…[but] we just ended up losing.”
Both teams came into the encounter sporting undefeated records and three players ranked in the top 10 nationally.
“[Yale has] a lot of depth and really talented players,” Gemmell said.
The first round of matches didn’t bode well for the Crimson. After senior No. 9 Alexandra Zindman lost 3-0, captain No. 3 Alisha Mashruwala followed suit, also failing to win a game. Though the senior took the lead at the beginning of the third set, Bulldog Sarah Toomey staged a mini-comeback of her own to close out another victory for Yale.
“[Toomey] played very well, [and] I have to respect her,” said Mashruwala. “She probably played the best squash of her life. I wish I were more consistent.”
But Harvard escaped with a win in the first three matches thanks to junior No. 6 Cece Cortes, who overwhelmed her Bulldog counterpart, 11-1, 11-6, 11-2.
In the next round of contests, junior No. 2 Nirasha Guruge faltered in the first game, 12-10, but then began the next set with a 5-1 lead. Frustration with let calls mounted, and she lost consecutive points after an unforced error on a return of serve, catalyzing a 12-10, 11-7, 11-7 loss at the hands of Millie Tomlinson.
“[Tomlinson is] a very well-known [player]…[with] a lot of experience,” Gemmell said.
Meanwhile, sophomore No. 5 Natasha Kingshott emerged victorious in a tense match. In the second set, Kingshott was up, 8-5, before opponent Rhetta Nadas leveled the score at 10-10. Nadas and Kingshott went back and forth, until Kingshott hit an unforced error that sailed over the back glass, causing her to lose the set, 19-17.
But Kingshott quickly bounced back, winning the first four points of the third set en route to a 11-6, 19-17, 11-5, 11-3 victory that left Nadas furiously storming off the court.
“[After she lost the second game], Natasha took it as a fighting opportunity,” said Mashruwala. “She regained her focus and played really well the rest of the match.”
On the other court, senior No. 8 Bethan Williams gave the Crimson its second win of the day, dropping a close first set, 10-12, before posting three consecutive wins, 11-3, 11-5, 11-6.