Season Recap: Women's Squash Runs Table, Captures National Title

Season Recap: Women's Squash Runs Table, Captures National Title

Photo courtesy of Chris Smith.

One of the most storied programs in its sport, the Harvard women’s squash team completed a magical season by posting a 12-0 record en route to the 12th national crown in its history.  The Crimson, which has now captured two College Squash Association national team championships under head coach Satinder Bajwa, also won the Ivy League title and the Barhite Award, given to the team with the best dual-match record during the regular season.

After finishing second at the 2009 CSA Championships at home, Harvard headed into this season looking to return to the top, as the team searched for its first national crown since 2001.  The Crimson rattled off four consecutive 9-0 victories to begin the year, easily defeating Brown, Williams, Dartmouth and Cornell.

 After the holiday break, Harvard, which moved to No.  1 in the CSA poll in January, traveled to India for an 11-day service and training trip, as the team donated squash supplies and taught children the intricacies of the game.  The service trip also had the added advantage of helping foster an even better true team atmosphere, as the players spent the better part of two weeks learning and preparing for the second-half of the season.

The Crimson returned to action to face No. 2 Trinity in a road match Jan. 30. Harvard cruised to a 7-2 win, as the Crimson improved to 5-0 and remained the only unbeaten team in the nation.  A day later, the team outplayed Stanford, 8-1, at the Barnaby Courts, as the Crimson headed into the final stretch owning a 6-0 record overall and a 3-0 mark in Ivy League play.

Harvard hosted No.  3 Penn in a key Ancient Eight matchup Feb. 6, as the Crimson and Quakers were each undefeated in Ivy action.   Led by six 3-0 wins in individual matches, Harvard dismissed its Ivy League rival, 8-1, grabbing sole possession of first place in the conference.  On the next afternoon, the Crimson defeated No. 4 Princeton by a score of 6-3, taking down the team that downed Harvard, 5-4, in the CSA final last season.  The win clinched Harvard a share of its 17th Ivy League crown, and first since 2006, as the Crimson concluded its home schedule with a perfect 4-0 record.

A match at Yale Feb.13, was the only thing standing in the way of a perfect regular season and sole possession of the Ivy title for Bajwa and the Crimson.  Harvard did not disappoint as the team dismissed its archrival, 7-2, at the Brady Squash Center, which would also serve as the site for the CSA Team Championships.  With Harvard leading 4-1, senior co-captain Katherine O’Donnell clinched the match and the conference title by defeating Caroline Reigeluth in three straight sets.  The Crimson completed the regular season 9-0 and was presented with the Barhite Award, given annually to the team with the best dual-match record in the nation, for the 11th time, with the most recent coming in 1999.

After a two-week hiatus, Harvard readied for the CSA tournament and faced No. 8 Williams in the quarterfinal round. For the second time this season, the Crimson topped the Ephs, 9-0, as Harvard players did not lose a single game during the match.

In the semifinals, Laura Gemmell, who did not drop a game at all during the entire season, improved to 10-0 at the No. 1 position, while fellow freshman Natasha Kingshott, who owned a 11-0 mark at the No. 5 slot, also won her match, 3-0, to pace the Crimson’s second 7-2 victory against Yale in two weeks.  The win propelled Harvard to the national final, as No. 3 Penn awaited. 

In the Howe Cup final, the teams utilized a three-court system, starting with positions 3, 6 and 9.  Harvard jumped out to a 2-1 lead as junior June Tiong outplayed Sydney scott in three straight games at the No. 3 position, while senior co-captain Johanna Snyder, who boasted a 12-0 record throughout the season, topped Britt Hebden, 3-1, at the No. 6 spot.  The Crimson continued to roll as sophomore Nirasha Guruge cruised past Nabilla Ariffin, 3-1, at the No. 2 slot, while Kingshott handled Yarden Odinak, 3-2, at the No. 5 slot.  With Harvard owning a 4-1 lead, O’Donnell lifted Harvard to the national crown, outlasting Christina Matthias, 3-2, at the No. 8 position. 

During the dual season, Harvard, which will also send a large contingent of players to the CSA Individual Championships March 5-7, had eight players post an unbeaten record.  The Crimson won every match during the dual season at positions 1, 5, 7, 8 and 9 and outscored opponents, 94-14, in matches.

Harvard continued to excel at the individual championships, as Gemmell won the national title, capturing the “A” Division crown, as well as the Ramsay Cup, as she became the 11th Harvard player to claim the trophy.  O’Donnell made it a sweep for the Crimon women, as she won the “B” bracket, taking home the Holleran Cup. 

Yet with all of his team’s success, Bajwa put the season in perspective.  “It is ofen quoted that one can learn more from losing, but our goal was to learn more from winning,” he said.  “If we learned from those positive experiences, then that would be the ultimate victory.”

 In one of the stronger team performances in recent memory, the Crimson earned its way into the record books and enriched a storied program, which should shine brightly for several years down the road, as Harvard will return seven of its starting nine players to Cambridge next season.