Season Preview: Women’s Squash Eyes Return to Championship Caliber

Johanna Snyder (pictured) is a senior co-captain on the Harvard women's squash team.
Photo courtesy of Gil Talbot.

The Harvard women’s squash team eyes a return trip to the national and Ivy League championship matches this year. Last season’s second place finish at the CSA Team Championship should be fuel for the fire that drives the Crimson to success this season. Harvard begins the year ranked second in the CSA preseason national poll.

Harvard has all nine starting players returning for the season. Leading way is the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Nirasha Guruge. Guruge earned first-team All-American and All-Ivy honors in 2008-09. Juniors Alisha Mashruwala, June Tiong and Bethan Williams and freshman Emily Park will all look to repeat as All-Americans after earning second-team honors last year.

Senior captains Katherine O’Donnell and Johanna Snyder and fellow seniors Cece Cortes, Sandra Mumanachit and Alexandra Zindman also return for the Crimson. Snyder brings experience to the squad, as she has been in the starting lineup since her rookie campaign. Last season, Snyder posted an 11-3 record was the recipient of the team’s Coaches Award. O’Donnell, the team’s Most Valuable Player in 2008-09, was third on the Crimson with 12 wins last season, including a perfect 9-0 at the No. 5 slot and 2-0 at No. 4.

Harvard looks to begin this season in similar style to the 2008-09 season. Last winter, the Crimson won its first seven matches, including three straight sweeps. Harvard finished last year’s campaign with a 10-2 overall record and 5-1 in the Ivy League. The only two losses came against Princeton, one in the regular season and the other in the national championship match. Both matches were decided by the score of 5-4.

Harvard adds five rookies to the roster for the 2009-10 campaign, Eliza Callahan, Laura Gemmell, Natasha Kingshott, Sarah Mumanachit and Vidya Rajan.

In the preseason individual rankings, Laura Gemmel is the top Crimson player, ranked at No. 4. Nirasha Guruge is ranked No. 8 while Alisha Mashruwala and June Tiong are No. 15 and 17, respectively.

The 2009-10 season kicks off Nov. 20 at Brown, a conference match. Along with the Bears, Harvard plays five matches on the road, including the first three matches of the season. The Crimson opens up play at home at the Barnaby Courts Dec. 5 against Ivy League foe Cornell. After a 55-day hiatus from competition, Harvard takes on Trinity Jan. 30. The following day, the Crimson welcomes Stanford for a non-league match. In a highly charged weekend, Harvard will host Penn, Feb. 6, and Princeton, Feb. 7, in a rematch of the 2009 national title match. The Crimson closes out the regular-season at Yale, Feb. 13.

The postseason begins where the regular-season leaves off, at Yale with the CSA Team Championships Feb. 26-28. The CSA Individual Championships will be hosted by Trinity in Hartford, Conn. Mar. 5-7.

The Crimson has plans to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity this year and continue to volunteer with Kids Squash Program, a free community squash program for local players.