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Two rivals met again in the CSA Team Championship final on Sunday, but this year brought a different outcome. The No. 1 Harvard women’s squash team (13-1, 3-1 Ivy) brought home the Howe Cup as the national champion after defeating No. 3 Trinity (17-2), 7-2, at the Barnaby Courts in the Murr Center.
To get to its seventh consecutive finals appearance, the Crimson faced off against No. 8 George Washington (9-7) on Friday and No. 4 Princeton (12-3, 5-2) on Saturday.
HARVARD 7, TRINITY 2
Sunday’s match marked the third consecutive year in which the two teams have met in the CSA final. The Crimson took the first meeting, 5-4, but last year, Harvard saw its undefeated record fall in the final, as the Bantams avenged their earlier loss, defeating the Crimson by the same score.
Looking to avenge its own defeat, Harvard also entered Sunday attempting to keep its No. 1 ranking, which it attained after defeating Trinity in the two teams’ previous meeting on Feb. 6. Trinity went into the game hoping to repeat history. Last year, the Crimson defeated the Bantams earlier in the season, before the side from Hartford, Conn. ultimately took the championship game.
“Going into the finals against Trinity having just beat them 8-1 [two weeks] before, we definitely knew we had it in us to do it again, and to reproduce the same performance without getting too ahead of ourselves,” freshman Sue Ann Yong said.
After earning shutouts in three of its last four matches, Harvard had to grind out a win on Sunday, as six of the nine individual matches lasted more than three games.
But with the Crimson leading, 4-2, junior Michelle Gemmell clinched the victory. After dropping the first two games, Trinity rookie Julia LeCoq fought off one championship point en route to a third game win. But Gemmell took the fourth game, 13-11, to give her side the title.
Junior Isabelle Dowling had the longest match of the afternoon, playing five games in her 2-3 loss to Sachika Balvani at the No. 9 spot. Dowling took the first game by a six-point margin, 11-5, but dropped the next two. She took the fourth game to stay alive in the contest, but the junior could not pull out the win, falling, 11-8.
Junior Saumya Karki earned Harvard’s first win of the day at the No. 6 position. Like Dowling, she defeated Salma El Defrawy in the first game, 11-5. Defrawy took the second game, before Karki put away the next two to win the match, 3-1.
Senior Amanda Sobhy, Yong, and senior Julianne Chu had the only sweeps of the day. At the No. 1 position, Sobhy, the top-ranked collegiate player in the nation, was the only one of the three who needed just 11 points to win each of her games.
Yong, who had an undefeated inaugural season with the Crimson, had a long first match at the No. 5 spot, just edging out Trinity tri-captain Ashley Tidman in three close games. All of Chu’s games at the No. 8 position were hard fought, with the last one finishing 12-10.
Yong’s fellow freshman standout, Alyssa Mehta, won 3-1 at the No. 3 spot. Mehta took the first two games, but Anna Kimberly started to make a comeback by taking the third game. Kimberly’s momentum was halted, though, as Mehta won the fourth game, 11-9, and the match.
Sophomore Dileas MacGowan also contributed a 3-1 victory to help cement Harvard’s championship win.
“I think at the end of the day, the winners will be the ones who [want] it the most,” Yong said. “And we really really wanted it. Win or lose, we were going to give it our everything and be really hard to beat.”
HARVARD 5, PRINCETON 4
On Saturday the Crimson came from behind to clinch a spot in the finals with a 5-4 win over the Tigers. Harvard trailed 3-1 and then 4-2 at the end of the second flight, but Sobhy and Gemmell tied up the match with consecutive 3-0 victories. It came down to MacGowan, who also swept her opponent, giving the Crimson a spot in the finals.
“Being 3-1 down against Princeton and beating them in a close 5-4 match was big,” Karki said. “All the players showed a lot of grit and just hung in there and performed really well under pressure.”
HARVARD 9, GEORGE WASHINGTON 0
Harvard registered its eighth sweep of the season on Friday, as the team kicked off the CSA Tournament against the Colonials. All nine players finished the match without dropping a single game, propelling the team into the semi-finals against Princeton.
“This has been an exceptional season and a great learning experience,” Karki said. “It was one of the toughest in terms of quality of competition and injuries, but the team showed a lot of maturity and really grew through the season.”
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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