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Entering Saturday’s contest at Murr Athletic Center, the Harvard women’s squash team looked to continue its perfect season. The Crimson (7-0, 3-0 Ivy) sat its top four players for the matchup against St. Lawrence (2-6), but despite some fresh faces in the lineup, Harvard still managed to come away with a perfect 9-0 win.
“Going into the game, we wanted to practice what we’ve been working on and get off as efficiently as possible,” junior co-captain Haley Mendez said. “People had their game plan going in, and they knew what they needed to practice for some of the tougher matches in the next ten days, so this was a great warm-up match for us.”
Eight of the nine wins were won in three straight games. The lone game loss came in the battle of the No. 1 seeds, as Crimson sophomore Michelle Gemmell faced off against fellow Canadian Jillian Baker.
Gemmell, playing for the first time in Harvard’s top position, suffered a loss in the second frame, as Baker came back from an 11-1 loss to claim a 12-10 victory and square the match. Gemmell won the next game, 11-7, then picked up an 11-5 victory to come away with the hard-fought 3-1 win for the Crimson.
“Michelle was playing number one, and she’s usually number four, so she really stepped up,” sophomore Isabelle Dowling said. “She had to make adjustments in her game after the second game, and the fourth game was really great to watch.”
For some of Harvard’s younger players, this was the first time their games were counted in securing the Crimson’s victory.
Freshman Caroline Monrad played as the sixth seed and won her match against Valerie Quan, 11-3, 11-1, and 11-2. Classmate Keegan Mendez notched a win against Sarah Neilson at No. 7 with an 11-6, 11-3, and 11-1 victory.
“At the bottom of the ladder, we had a couple people who don’t normally play but played in the top nine in this match, which was awesome,” Dowling said. “They were all great, and really stepped it up. It can be tough sometimes stepping into a role when your match counts when it normally doesn’t, but they all did it beautifully.”
Co-captain Natasha Anzik played in the No. 8 spot, topping St. Lawrence’s Carolyn Fisher in three straight games, 11-4, 11-3, and 11-1.
“It was relatively straightforward for us,” Mendez said. “We’ve been training really hard over J-term, so it was nice to see that pay off. Natasha played at the eighth position and had a great win. It was really nice for her to have that happen in one of her last home matches.”
Higher on the ladder, Dowling and freshman Dileas MacGowan still stand undefeated in individual matches this season with seven apiece. MacGowan won her match against the Saints’ No. 3 seed Emily Terry, 11-4, 11-5, and 11-2. Dowling bested opponent Zoe Kagan, 11-5, 11-4, and 11-6, at No. 4.
“The girl that I played from St. Lawrence was definitely solid,” Dowling said. “It was great to go out there and tweak some things that I have wanted to work on from my past matches.”
The 9-0 victory marked the Crimson’s fifth shutout this season.
“I think everyone played well,” Dowling said. “They were kind of working out the parts of their game that needed to be worked on throughout the season. I think we all wanted to go into this as one last match to get the experience under our belt before we tackle next week, which is going to be a big challenge.”
Harvard has been consistently strong since the beginning of its 2013-14 campaign. The Crimson hopes to carry the momentum into the weekend, when it faces off against Penn and Princeton in a pair of critical Ancient Eight matchups.
“First and foremost, we’re trying to stay injury-free,” Mendez said. “We know we’re fit, and we know we’ve put the work in, so now it’s just consistency and making sure everybody shows up with their A-games every match. Everybody has the little things that they need to do to feel like they’re playing well, and right now it’s just about staying confident and playing our game.”
—Crimson staff writer Emily T. Wang can be reached at email@example.com.
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