Before the women’s team squash national championships began on Friday, all the divisional winners from the previous year returned their trophies so that the hardware would be available for this year’s winners. Not Yale. The Elis, who entered the weekend as defending champions but ranked No. 2 in the country, were not about to give up their title willingly.
Yale (17–2, 6–1 Ivy) advanced easily through the first two rounds of the tournament but succumbed to No. 1 Harvard (17–0, 7–0) in the finals Sunday in an encore of last year’s national title match. The Elis had pushed the Cantabs to the limit when they lost the Ivy League championship to their archrivals by a 5–4 score in New Haven two weeks ago. Harvard came out in full force on home turf in Cambridge, Mass., Sunday and rolled to an 8–1 victory, sending the Elis home as the nation’s second-best team.
“Harvard was higher ranked than us — their roster list has slightly higher ranked players,” said Shihui Mao ’15, who fell to Harvard’s Sarah Mumanachit in three games at the No. 7 spot. “They played really well, and we couldn’t match.”
The weekend had started out strong for Yale, which played in the tournament’s most competitive bracket. The Elis kicked off with a sweep of No. 7 Cornell (12–8) on Friday, followed by a 7–2 rout of No. 3 Princeton (11–5) the next day. That success set up a meeting with Harvard, which had coasted into the finals with sweeps of No. 8 Dartmouth and No. 5 Trinity in the quarterfials and semifinals, respectively.
The Crimson had finished their regular season with a perfect record, including the 5–4 win over Yale in New Haven. But Yale had finished with the upper hand the last time the two teams met with a national title at stake, having clinched last year’s national title with a 5-4 victory over the Cantabs in Princeton, N.J., last season.
This time, however, the Crimson were too much for head coach David Talbott’s team to handle. Led by freshmen — and former world No. 17 — Amanda Sohby at the No. 1 spot, the Crimson overpowered their opponents with wins at the top eight spots.
The Crimson took an early lead on Sunday. At No. 3, Nirasha Guruge took down Yale captain Rhetta Nadas ’12 in straight sets, and at No. 6 Gwendoline Tilghman ’14 fell to Harvard’s Natasha Kingshott by the same score, despite pushing her opponent to the brink in a hard-fought second game that she lost 19–17. At No. 9, however, Issey-Norman Ross ’15 took home a 3–0 victory to cut Harvard’s overall lead to 2–1.
But Yale would not win another match.
At No. 2, Kim Hay ’14 could not repeat her impressive upset of heavily-favored Laura Gemmell of Harvard from two weeks before, and fell in three sets. At No. 8, Lillian Fast ’14 also fell in a rematch with her Harvard opponent, falling to Julianne Chu — who she had beaten in five sets during the regular season — 3–1. Those two wins put Harvard up 4–1.
The Crison celebration started soon after, as captain Cecilia Cortes’ 3–1 victory over Katie Ballaine ’13 gave the team an insurmountable 5–1 lead. Cortes’ teammates waited for their captain to shake hands and walk off the court with Ballaine before mobbing her in celebration.
Games remained at No. 1, 4 and 7, but the vanquished Elis put up little fight. At No. 1, Millie Tomlinson ’14 lost in three sets. Alexandra Van Arkel ’12 at No. 4 and Mao at No. 7 were also defeated in straight sets.
Next week, Yale will compete in the College Squash Association individual championships in Amherst, Mass.