Peter Prendergast ’16, SPORTS EDITOR
On Sunday, Feb. 23, the Trinity College Women’s Squash team became national champions as they beat out the Harvard Crimson in a 5-4 victory. Eight schools, including Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Pennsylvania, Cornell and Stanford, gathered at Princeton’s Jadwin Courts for a weekend tournament spanning from Feb. 21-Feb. 23, all looking for a chance to win the Howe Cup. The Bantams, who finished the regular season with a 14-1 record, were awarded the no.2 seed in the tournament, while the undefeated Harvard was awarded the first seed.
In the quarterfinal round on Feb. 21, Trinity completely swept the Stanford Cardinals as not one Bantam allowed their opponent to win even a single game. Kanzy El Defrawy ’16 was especially impressive in her match, as she allowed only two points in her three games. Following the win against Stanford, Trinity advanced to the semi-final round, to face University of Pennsylvania. Like Stanford, the Quakers proved that they were no match for the dominant Bantams. Trinity took the match with a score of 6-3 as they won in the top five positions as well as in the no.7 spot. Head Coach Wendy Bartlett stated “Penn’s lineup was different than the first time and that may have thrown us off at first. Ashley Tildman’s win really changed the momentum for us.” Tildman ’15 broke the 3-3 match tie as she beat her opponent, Michelle Wong, 3-2.
By beating Penn, Trinity advanced to the finals where they met the very team that tarnished the Bantams’ perfect season only a few weeks earlier: the Harvard Crimson. No.1 seed Harvard had swept Dartmouth College in the quarter-finals and defeated Yale 6-3 in the semi-finals to reach the championship round against Trinity. The two teams met on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 1:00 p.m. to compete for the title. Harvard showed up looking to maintain their perfect season while the Bantams were looking to avenge their regular season loss to the Crimson.
Harvard took a 2-0 lead after the first two matches as Katie Tutrone beat Trinity’s Wee Nee Low ’14 in the no.3 spot and Megan Murray beat Sachika Balvani ’16 in the no.9 spot. Trinity finally got on the board in their third match as Natalie Babjukova ’15 beat Harvard’s Julianne Chu in five games to take the no.6 spot victory.
Co-captain Catalina Palaez ’14 followed Babjukova’s victory with a 3-1 victory over Haley Mendez in the no.2 spot. Palaez’s victory rounded out her perfect season as she finished her 2013-2014 campaign with a 14-0 record. In the next match, Jennifer Pelletier ’14 found herself down 2-1 against Harvard’s no.8, Isabelle Dowling, but she managed to take the last two games, including an 11-6 victory in the deciding fifth game. Tidman followed by coming back from a two game deficit against Michelle Gemmell, winning her fifth and decisive game 11-4.
Tidman followed by coming back from a two game deficit against Michelle Gemmell, winning her fifth and decisive game 11-4.
With the match tied at 4-4, Trinity’s Anna Kimberly ’17 squared off against Harvard’s Saumya Karki for the deciding round in the no.4 spot. Kimberly lost her first game 11-7 but came back to tie it with an 11-9 win in her second game. She took a 2-1 lead by winning her third game 11-5. In her fourth and final game, she outscored her opponent 11-9, winning her match, as well as the championship for Trinity College. Following the victory, Bantam teammates and fans stormed the court to celebrate with Kimberly. Following the match, she stated “I knew she [Karki] was going to be tough to beat. She really stepped up today. This is just the best feeling, such an amazing feeling.”
This championship marks the third title for the Trinity College Women’s Squash team, the first since their 2003 win eleven years prior. By beating Harvard, Trinity snapped their nine match losing streak against the Crimson, stemming all the way back to 2008. This was Harvard’s first loss since they fell 5-4 against Princeton on Jan. 13, 2013.