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Title Defense Starts Versus Boston College Friday for Women's Squash

Amanda Sobhy will begin her individual and team title defense Friday at MIT (Photo courtesy: Gil Talbot). 

Scene Setter
The No. 1 Harvard women's squash team begins its title defense at the MIT Round Robin Tournament with a match against Boston College Friday.

Last Season
Harvard concluded a perfect 2011-12 season in impressive fashion, defeating No. 2 Yale, 8-1, in the College Squash Association Championship match to end the year with a 17-0 mark and capture the program's 13th national title. The Crimson swept six of the nine matches after narrowly beating the Bulldogs, 5-4, to claim the Ivy title earlier in the year.

Happy Returns
Despite losing two All-Americans in Cece Cortes and Nirasha Guruge to graduation, the Crimson still returns three All-Americans from last year's team. Sophomore and defending national champion Amanda Sobhy is back for her second campaign after posting a 15-0 record last season. She is joined by 2010 national champion Laura Gemmell, who has been a first team All-America selection each of her three years in Cambridge, and team co-MVP and second team All-American Haley Mendez. Overall, the Crimson returns seven of its top nine for 2012-13.

New Kids on the Block
Three freshman will join the Crimson in its attempt to repeat this year. Saumya Karki, Michelle Gemmell and Isabelle Dowling are all expected to make an immediate impact for Harvard. Karki and Gemmell are projected to play in the top six this season, while Dowling will compete for a spot in the lower third of the lineup.

Related Article: Three Newcomers Added to Women's Squash for 2012-13

Family Ties
Senior Laura Gemmell is joined on the squad this year by her younger sister, Michelle. Isabelle Dowling is the third member of her family to play squash at Harvard, as her mother, Diana Edge '88, and father, Joseph Dowling '87, both suited up for the Crimson. Senior co-captain Sarah Mumanachit's older sister, Sandra '10, was also a four-year member of the squad.

Still the One
In the CSA preseason rankings, the Crimson was selected as the favorite to repeat as national champions. Harvard is followed by archrival Yale and Trinity in the preseason projection, the teams it defeated in the finals and semifinals at last year's CSA Team Championships.

Related Articles: CSA Tabs Women's Squash as Preseason Number One

The Captains
Seniors Natasha Kingshott and Sarah Mumanachit were both elected team captains prior to the start of the season. Kingshott posted a 13-4 mark last season, playing in the three-six spots in the lineup, while Mumanachit went 15-2 primarily out of the seven spot.

Leading the Way
Mike Way, The Gregory Lee '87 and Russell Ball '88 Endowed Coach for Squash at Harvard University, returns for his third season. In two seasons in Cambridge, his women's teams have gone a combined 28-2, including last year's 17-0 mark. Assistants Reg Schonborn and Luke Hammond return for the 2012-13 season.

Play the video below to hear coach Way's thoughts on the upcoming season. 

Unbeaten Beginnings
Harvard has come out on the winning side in its season opener in all 37 years of its existence. Last season, Harvard held off then-No. 6 Stanford, 6-3, at Williams to continue the streak.

About Boston College
The Eagles enter 2012-13 ranked No. 31 in the CSA preseason poll. BC does return five players from last season; however, the squad lost four of its top nine, including No. 2 and 3, from a team that went 4-5 and placed 29th in the final rankings. No. 1 Lilly Havens and No. 4 Cassie Burke are the two big returners for Boston College.

Up Next
The Harvard women will be off for almost two weeks before returning to action at home Nov. 28 against Dartmouth at 5 p.m.