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The Thanksgiving food coma did not seem to affect the No. 1 Harvard women’s squash team (2-0, 1-0 Ivy) as it traveled to Hanover, N.H. on Tuesday to face off against No. 10 Dartmouth (0-1, 0-1). The team, coming off a strong performance in a win against Stanford and a long weekend of rest, did not slow down and brought energy to the Berry Sports Center.
This was the team’s first away game of the season, and to make up for the fans who were unable to make the trek up to New Hampshire, the men’s and women’s teams stayed together to cheer each other on. Just like it did against Stanford a little over a week ago, the Crimson went into the game relaxed and confident, after having spent time working on the mental aspect of its game.
“We’ve been focusing on the mental part of the game, which will become more and more important as the season progresses and we match up against some of our toughest opponents,” junior Dileas MacGowan said. “We do visualization exercises with our coach as part of our training, which we can apply to all matches as [it] helps to ensure consistency and ‘fight’ throughout a match.”
Like it did against Stanford, the team extended its win streak on Tuesday, claiming its eleventh straight victory with another strong showing on the courts. The team, which has a history of performing well against Dartmouth, lived up to expectations in posting a 9-0 sweep, with some returning players getting to play for the first time this season and two freshmen becoming regulars in the Harvard lineup.
“I think they get more confident every match and definitely get to manage their temperament a little bit more, and really understand the pressure of colege squash a little bit better,” co-captain Saumya Karki said.
The top six positions set the tone for the day, with each Crimson player sweeping her opponent.
Freshman Kayley Leonard made another appearance for the Crimson at the No. 1 spot, this time against Jacqueline Barnes, whom she easily handled. Sophomore Alyssa Mehta defeated Victoria Dewey at the No. 2 position, and senior Michelle Gemmell rounded out the top three positions, making quick work of her match against Rebecca Brownell. Leonard, Mehta, and Gemmell all gave up fewer than six points in each of their games.
The second flight also swept its opponents. MacGowan took on Lydie McKenzie at No. 4. Mehta’s younger sister, freshman Sophie, also made an appearance, playing and winning against Zainab Molani at the No. 5 position. Karki, in the No. 6 position, defeated Emma Roberts.
Only in the last two positions did the Crimson give up games to Dartmouth. Junior Caroline Monrad, who played in the No. 7 position, and classmate Keegan Mendez, who played in the eighth, both faltered and lost one game each to Madeline Fraser and Janel Gaube, respectively, but bounced back to ultimately win their matches, 3-1.
With the win, the Crimson hands the Big Green its first loss of the season, and improves its record in its series to 46-3. The team also moves one game closer to another national title—and to make it, Harvard not only has to be physically strong, but mentally ready for the ups and downs of the season.
“One quote from Michael Jordan that our coach reminds us of is the importance of ‘staying the same’,” MacGowan added. “When we’re playing in the finals of a national title and it’s 4-4 in matches, all you need to do is stay the same. You don’t need to perform higher than you have all year—you just need to stay the same. And that quote really helps diminish pressure when we’re in such tough matches. I say it in my head all the time. The mental game is huge in this individual sport.”
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at email@example.com.
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