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The No. 1 Harvard women’s squash team brought the excitement and energy to the Murr Center in its season opener, defeating No. 9 Stanford, 8-1, for the 11th-straight time at the Boston Round-Robins.
Last weekend, the defending champions dropped a hard fought match in the finals of the Ivy League scrimmages to Yale on the road. As it returned home to open its 2015-2016 season on Friday, the Crimson (1-0) looked to rebound and start off the season on the right footing.
“Not specifically preparing for Stanford but more for the season as a whole, we’ve been doing a lot of mental work and fitness,” junior Katherine Tutrone said. “ [Coach] Mike [Way] loves playing the life coach for us, keeping us humored and constantly aware of why we do what we do.”
All of the encouragement from Way after the scrimmages seems to paid off. The team was comfortable and confident going into the match, not only because it was at home but also because it was playing a team that it had already had 10 consecutive wins.
Past results are not indicative of future game performances, though, and the Crimson still anticipated a tough game.
“Stanford is always a very solid team, and we went in knowing there were some tough players, especially at the top of their lineup,” co-captain Isabelle Dowling said. “They proved to be very strong, and it was a great match.”
Going into the match with the mindset that it couldn’t slack off helped the Crimson play at a high level and easily handle the Cardinals (2-1). Specifically, the newest members of the team quickly acclimated to the style and level of play that is expected of a Harvard women’s squash player.
“The freshmen have been awesome so far,” Dowling said. “They are all also very seasoned players with international and world team experience, so we are very confident they will continue to succeed throughout the year. They have brought a fantastic energy to the team as well that we have been enjoying.”
It was a big day for two of the freshmen, Kayley Leonard and Sophie Mehta, who made their collegiate debuts.
Leonard played in the No. 1 position and defeated Madeleine Gill 3-1. Mehta, playing in the sixth position, clinched her first win with a 3-0 sweep of Anna Marie Manning.
Junior Caroline Monrad had the closest match of the day, dropping two games to Lucy Rowe playing out of the eighth spot on her way to a 3-2 win.
In the second position, sophomore Alyssa Mehta made winning a family affair. She also defeated her opponent, Sarah Bell, in four games. Dowling, Tutrone, junior Dileas MacGowan, and sophomore Sue Ann Yong also soundly won their sets, with three of the four sweeping their opponents.
MacGowan remains undefeated in her Crimson career, and Dowling picked up her seventh career win.
The only matchup dropped was junior Keegan Mendez’s, who lost by 3 close games to Grayson Melby.
While all nine Crimson players had solid performances, the team is just beginning to heat up and still has room to improve on its road to clinching another national title.
“We all have individual lists of things that we are constantly working on—be it serve returns, movement to the front of the court, or our short games,” Tutrone said. “While there isn’t one uniform thing across the team, I’m sure everyone will be taking away some things from this match to apply to the games going forward.”
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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