No. 5 Penn, No. 4 Princeton To Host Top-Ranked Women's Squash This Weekend

No. 5 Penn, No. 4 Princeton To Host Top-Ranked Women's Squash This Weekend

Natasha Anzik is 4-0 for the Crimson this year (Gil Talbot). 

Scene Setter
The No. 1 Harvard women's squash team jumps back into Ivy League play with weekend matches against No. 5 Penn and No. 4 Princeton.

Last Time Out
Despite taking a month off between finals and the holidays, the Crimson displayed little signs of rust, cruising to a 9-0 victory over No. 13 Bates. Reigning College Squash Association individual national champion Amanda Sobhy made her season debut for the Crimson and allowed just six points in an 11-2, 11-3, 11-1 win over Cheri Ann Paris at the No. 1 position.

Related Article: Women's Squash Posts Fourth Shutout of the Season Against No. 13 Bates, 9-0

About No. 1 Harvard
The Crimson sit at 4-0 on the year after dominating the first four matches of the season, winning all four by 9-0 margins. The Crimson also has won all 27 games in two matches, winning each match 3-0 against Boston College and Bates. Megan Murray, Isabelle Dowling, Natasha Anzik and Eliza Calihan are tied for the team lead with four wins apiece, while Saumya Karki, Natasha Kingshott, Sarah Mumanachit and Haley Mendez are all 3-0.

Unbeaten Beginnings
With its win over Bates, Harvard is now 4-0 for the ninth straight season. By defeating both Penn and Princeton this weekend, Harvard would be 6-0 for the seventh consecutive year after dropping the fifth match of the 2005-06 season to Trinity. Harvard has also come out on the winning side in its season opener in all 38 years of its existence after blanking Boston College, 9-0, in this year's lid lifter. The team has also started 3-0 in 35 consecutive years after dropping its second match of the 1973-74 season to Wellsley, 4-3.

Zero Success
Harvard has shutout Boston College, Dartmouth, Williams and Bates to begin 2012-13, winning all 36 matches. It is the fourth time in program history that Harvard has started the year by blanking its first four opponents, and the program record for consecutive shutouts to start a season is six, accomplished by the 2010-11 squad. This year's team is also within striking distance of the program record for consecutive shutouts in a season (seven in 1992-93) and single season shutouts (10 in 2011-12).

Freshmen Phenoms
The four freshmen have made a significant impact through the first three matches of the 2012-13 season, as the quartet is a combined 10-0. Isabelle Dowling is 4-0, Saumya Karki sits at 3-0, Michelle Gemmell is 2-0 and Allie Sperry is 1-0.  

Coach's View
Assistant coach Luke Hammond is now blogging to give fans an inside perspective of the Harvard men's and women's squash teams. The blog will be periodically updated throughout the season, recapping the latest results and highlighting other interesting tidbits about the squad.

Related Link: Harvard Squash Blog 

Win Streaking
The Crimson has currently won 21 consecutive matches dating back to last season, which is now tied with a run from 2009-2011 for the fourth-longest streak in program annals. The current run now trails only a 23-match streak (1983-1986), a 26-match span (1986-89) and a 70-match run (1992-1998).

About No. 5 Penn (Team Page)
Like the Crimson, the Quakers have yet to lose a match all season, winning their first four contests against Williams, Drexel, George Washington and Bates. Penn returns everybody from last year's squad that finished fifth in the Howe Cup, including All-Americans Nabilla Ariffin, Rachael Goh, Pia Trikha and Yarden Odinak.

About No. 4 Princeton (Team Page)
Princeton enters the weekend at 3-0, beating Franklin & Marshall, Drexel and Williams by identical 9-0 scores. The Tigers lost only one player in the top nine from their 2011-12 squad that finished fourth in the Howe Cup. First team All-Americans Julie Cerullo and Libby Eyre lead the returnees on the team.

All-Time Series
Harvard has won the last six meetings with Penn, including a 7-2 win last year at the Murr Center. Overall, the Crimson lead the all-time series 36-6. Against the Tigers, Harvard has won the last three matchups and tops the all-time series 29-20.

Up Next
Harvard travels to Amherst, Mass. to face Hamilton, Amherst and Wesleyan Jan. 19 in the Pioneer Round Robin.

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
Four freshmen will join the Crimson in its attempt to repeat this year. Saumya KarkiMichelle GemmellIsabelle Dowling and Allie Sperry 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. Sperry was a late addition to the squad, walking on just prior to the beginning of the season to pick up a win at BC.

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. In the subsequent polls, Harvard has remained atop the standings with the Bulldogs and Bantams still sitting at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

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 through six spots in the lineup, while Mumanachit went 15-2 primarily out of the seven hole.

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 just over two years in Cambridge, his women's teams have gone a combined 30-2 (.938), including last year's 17-0 mark. Assistants Reg Schonborn and Luke Hammond return for the 2012-13 season.

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.