Facing its toughest opponent so far this season in No. 4 Stanford on a Sunday matinee, women’s squash completed a weekend sweep against cross-coast colleges after winning the day before against No. 19 Tufts.
No. 1 Harvard (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) has yet to drop an individual match this year, winning both contests 9-0 in dominant fashion. In the last five matchups, Harvard has only dropped a total of two games across all the team’s individual matches.
This weekend was supposed to mark the beginning to Harvard’s more challenging part of the schedule, facing two ranked teams, including one in the top five. While the play might have been tighter on the court, the results show unquestioned dominance.
HARVARD 9, STANFORD 0
Last year women’s squash travelled to Palo Alto at the end of a four-game road trip against three teams ranked in the top-five. Harvard got a reprieve this year, playing host to the Cardinal as it went on its own weekend jaunt across the country.
The unfortunate reality of playing a sport almost exclusive to the East Coast while on the West Coast is the frequent weekend cross-country flights and single-day double-hitters. After playing at Williams College, against Williams and Cornell, the team faced a drive from Western Massachusetts and a date with Dartmouth and defending national champions, Harvard.
Despite the logistical disadvantages Stanford faced, Harvard was careful to not approach the match complacently, especially with top player and junior Sabrina Sobhy absent as she joined her sister Sabrina Sobhy ’15 in New York at the Tournament of Champions.
“I think that most of the time the pressure is on us because we are seeded one,” said No. 5 senior and co-captain Sue Ann Yong. “So going into every single match with always these sorts of nerves—everyone’s out to get you.”
A focus on mental fortitude has long been a staple of Harvard squash. Visualization and other focus methods are used, and these tools will be more and more important as the team goes against tougher opponents.
With focus in place, Harvard was able to run by its cross-country adversary in relatively easy fashion.
“Stanford got a lot better this year and it’s our toughest match so far so I think that we were all preparing mentally, ready for a good battle,” said No. 6 sophomore Eleonore Evans. “I think we all handled it all pretty well, stayed pretty steady, and just stayed inside the court.”
Harvard jumped up to a commanding start in the first round of games, denying even a game from Stanford. While most of Harvard’s players cruised through in three easy games, Evans fought through an early first-game tiebreaker, 17-15, to continue the flawless afternoon.
Eventually No. 9 sophomore Annika Engstrom fell in her first game to disrupt the streak of 3-0 victories, but soon rallied to win in four games.
HARVARD 9, TUFTS 0
Harvard’s northern neighbor has never had a decent chance against its Cambridge host, and Saturday was no different. All games were decided in three games and the Mehta sisters (senior Alyssa and junior Sophie) were each able to pick up a bagel in one of their games.
The results have been unsurprising so far this season. The easier competition gives the team the opportunity to ease into competition and prepare for the tougher matchups down the road.
“The first half of the Ivy season has been good,” Evans said. “Our matches have been more spread out so we’ve had more recovery time and practice and prepare for our matches. Now we have a straight three weeks until nationals so it’s going to be a grind on the body and on our minds. But we just have to stay focused, keep up with the visualizing, keep up with the mental preparation.”
The squash season moves quickly and the team will look to stay consistent, because it’s hard to do any better on the scorecard.
—Staff writer William Quan can be reached at email@example.com.