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Traveling across the country to Palo Alto, the No. 1 Harvard women’s squash team looked to sweep its demanding four-game road trip, which comprised of three top-5 teams in the country. The Crimson (5-0, 3-0 Ivy) continued its unbeaten play Thursday night against Stanford (3-2), winning all nine of their games and dropping just three sets. Harvard’s strong play nullified the Cardinal’s three-game winning streak, displaying a form typical of the nation’s top ranked program.
The Crimson had come off resounding victories against No. 2 Penn and No. 4 Princeton, adding confidence to its already stellar play. Despite trouncing Penn by the widest margin in five years, Harvard was not lured into a false sense of security.
“In terms of the match itself, we went into that match the same way we go into every other match that we’re playing this year,” captain Dileas MacGowan said. “Very much, sort of in it to win it, but very mentally prepared and serious about playing the Stanford team just as serious as we are when we go into playing number two and number three ranked teams.”
The Crimson’s top of the lineup cruised against Stanford with each of the top six refusing to drop even a set. Sophomore Sabrina Sobhy and freshman Gina Kennedy, two of the best players in collegiate squash, set the tone. Sobhy shut out opposing No. 1 freshman Casey Wong in her second set while Kennedy allowed just six points total in her three-game win. Led by their tenacious play, Harvard put the match away after just the fifth game.
Despite the strong start, the Crimson did not allow itself to let up against its foe from the West Coast. The two dropped sets by No. 7 Sophie Mehta and No. 9 MacGowan both went into tiebreakers. Other than those blemishes, Harvard came up with a thorough victory, up and down the lineup card.
“It was one of those matches that could have been a lot closer than what it was, but because of that mentality we had going into it we were able to come out with a solid and straightforward win,” said MacGowan.
But the value of a victory can never be understated.
“We try our best to not have it too close, but it’s not like we are expecting to win because easily, in squash, anything can happen so we definitely still get that thrill when we win,” senior Katherine Tutrone said.
For some of Harvard’s players, it’s sometimes good to make a sport like squash personal. MacGowan follows this sentiment, and goes as far as to avoid knowing the results of other matchups before going on court so that she can focus on her own game.
“There are some instances that you do expect your team to win 9-0, but even if you are already up 5-0, at the end of the day it’s an individual sport so you’re self-motivated in a sense, as well,” said MacGowan. “Not just five wins here for my team, but this is my match and I’m out to win regardless of how the team is doing.”
Mental preparation was not all that aided the Crimson to victory. Even before they traveled across the country, Harvard had played for three straight days. The time before match day against Stanford increased in importance, but logistically they met that challenge.
“They have a pretty solid team. We were lucky to have the chance to go down there to actually train at the court for a couple days prior to the game. We were there from Monday to Friday, and the match was on Thursday—so we definitely had some good training.”
—Staff writer William Quan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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