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The No. 1 Harvard women’s squash team (8-0, 5-0 Ivy) has not lost a match in almost two years.
As matter of fact, the women are a mere eight days short of hitting that two-year mark.
The squad kept its winning streak alive this past weekend on its final road trip of the regular season. It toppled No. 5 Penn (8-3, 4-2) on Saturday and No. 4 Princeton (8-3, 4-3) yesterday, undoubtedly providing some key momentum for the tough matches that lay ahead.
“It was our first real test of the season,” said captain No. 13 Alisha Mashruwala of the weekend. “Everyone stepped up when they needed to.”
HARVARD 7, PRINCETON 2
The Tigers may have had the home-court advantage at the Jadwin Squash Courts, but that ultimately proved futile in the face of a strong Crimson performance.
Coming off a close victory against the Quakers, the Harvard women channeled their confidence into a dominant showing.
“We learned from the match [on Saturday] and we came out firing,” sophomore No. 17 Natasha Kingshott said. “Everyone improved from their match the day before…Every single player went into the match with a plan and knowing their strengths and weaknesses.”
Mashruwala likewise noted the confidence of her teammates.
“The team went into today mentally prepared and very ready to play,” Mashruwala said. “There was a lot of energy and a lot of confidence after [Saturday’s] match. Everyone, win or lose, played the best that they could.”
Utilizing that energy, Kingshott, fellow sophomore No. 42 Sarah Mumanachit, junior No. 37 Cece Cortes, and senior Alexandra Zindman all defeated their opponents in straight sets, 3-0.
Also capturing victories were sophomore No. 1 Laura Gemmell and senior No. 29 Bethan Williams—both won in four frames. Senior No. 9 June Tiong rounded out the wins with a five-frame triumph.
Faring less well, but not for lack of effort, were Mashruwala and junior No. 7 Nirasha Guruge.
Mashruwala couldn’t quite hang on for the win, losing in five sets, and Guruge fell in three.
“Princeton played great,” Mashruwala said. “Princeton is always hard. They always come out at you, and they’re one of the strongest teams, always, in the Ivy League.”
HARVARD 5, PENN 4
With the recent 5-4 upset of the Tigers fresh under its belt, Penn was gunning for another underdog victory at the Ringe Courts this past Saturday.
The Quakers fell short of that goal, but the match was the closest yet of the season for the Crimson.
“It was a great match to start the second half of our season,” Kingshott said. “[Penn is] really competitive, and we knew it would be a challenge.”
And live up to the challenge, the Quakers did.
“Penn played very, very well,” Mashruwala said. “Penn was motivated, and everyone [on the Harvard squad] knew they needed to step up.”
With the match hanging in the balance right through to the final matchup, each court saw close competition.
Gemmell, at No. 1, dropped sophomore No. 15 Nabilla Ariffin in four frames, 11-5, 10-12, 11-4, 11-5. It marked the first regular season match of Gemmell’s career that wasn’t won in straight sets.
Yet, with the win, Gemmell maintained her undefeated record.
Also maintaining spotless records were Cortes, Mumanachit, and Guruge, although Guruge lost the following day. Cortes and Mumanachit won in three sets, and Guruge pushed through a grueling five frames for her victory.
But despite these victories, Mashruwala, Tiong, Kingshott, and Williams all fell short in their matches, and the score was knotted at four apiece.
It was Zindman, fighting her toughest match yet, who clinched the win. She downed No. 80 rookie Hyland Murphy in five, 14-12, 8-11, 13-15, 11-6, 11-3.
“This was her first big match after being injured for so long,” Kingshott explained. “That was the crucial match and crucial win for us…She showed incredible tenacity. We were all so excited and inspired to see her play well.”
Ultimately, then, the Crimson narrowly pulled away with a win.
“Penn came out fighting,” Kingshott said. “But we dealt with the pressure really well. Penn is a formidable opponent and we had to respect them, but at the same time we had to have confidence in our own skill. We did a good job dominating play and making our marks.”
—Staff writer Molly E. Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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