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On the Road Again: Women's Squash Visits Amherst Saturday to Face the Jeffs and Hamilton

Isabelle Dowling is one of three freshmen in Harvard's top nine (Gil Talbot). 

Scene Setter
The No. 2 Harvard women's squash team looks to bounce back after dropping its first match of the season to Princeton by visiting Amherst to take on the Jeffs and Hamilton Saturday.

Last Time Out
Harvard went 1-1 over the weekend, splitting matches at No. 5 Penn and No. 4 Princeton. The Crimson opened the weekend by defeating the Quakers, 6-3, to run its win streak to 22 matches, the fourth-longest in school history. Julie Chu made her season debut at No. 9 for the Crimson and earned a critical win, defeating Ailsa Agnew, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8, while senior Laura Gemmell outlasted Yan Xin, 9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4, at No. 2 to remain undefeated on the year. In Sunday's match, the Crimson couldn't quite close out the Tigers, dropping a 5-4 decision in New Jersey. Harvard held advantages in three of the five matches it lost, including a match ball in one contest, but Princeton was able to rally to hand the Crimson its first defeat since falling to Yale in the CSA Final Feb. 20, 2011.

Related Article: No. 1 Harvard Women's Squash Slips Past No. 5 Penn, 6-3
Related Article: Princeton Rallies Past Top-Ranked Women's Squash, 5-4

About No. 2 Harvard
The Crimson sits at 5-1 on the year and 2-1 in the Ivy League. Overall, the Crimson is a collective 48-11 on the season and undefeated at three spots on the ladder. Harvard has yet to lose a match at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5. Natasha Kingshott leads the team with a 5-0 record thus far, while Natasha Anzik and Laura Gemmell are both 4-0. 

Gunning For That No. 1 Spot
Since the start of the 2009-10 season, Harvard has not been beaten at the No. 1 position in team play. The Crimson is 48-0 at the position in the last four years. Senior Laura Gemmell leads the way with 28 of those wins, while sophomore Amanda Sobhy is second with 13. Nirasha Guruge (five wins), Haley Mendez (one win) and Saumya Karki (one win) have also recorded wins in the position during the span.

Unbeaten Beginnings
With its win over Penn, Harvard started the year 5-0 for the seventh consecutive year. The last time Harvard did not reach 6-0 was 2005-06 when it lost the fifth match of the 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.

Zero Success
Harvard has shutout Boston College, Dartmouth, Williams and Bates to begin 2012-13, winning all 36 matches. Harvard started the year by blanking its first four opponents for the fourth time in school history to fall just shy of the program record for consecutive shutouts to start a season of six, accomplished by the 2010-11 squad. This year's team is still within striking distance of the program record for shutouts in a season, which is 10 set by last year's team.

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
Harvard's 22-match win streak, which was broken by Princeton Sunday, is the fourth-longest unbeaten run in program history. The streak trails a 23-match streak (1983-1986), a 26-match span (1986-89) and a 70-match run (1992-1998) for longest in Harvard annals.

About Hamilton (Team Page) 
The Continentals bring a 1-4 record into the match against Harvard. Hamilton bested Colgate 9-0 but lost to Williams, Stanford and Middlebury by identical 9-0 scores. Second Team All-NECAC selections Amanda Thorman and Hilary Gray anchor the returners for the Continentals.

Series History Against Hamilton
This will be the first meeting between the two schools.

About No. 9 Amherst (Team Page)
The Jeffs snapped a two-game skid on Wednesday by knocking off No. 10 Bowdoin, 7-2, to improve to 5-3 on the year. Amherst has also defeated Drexel (6-3), Smith (9-0), Northeastern (9-0), Connecticut College (9-0) and fallen to George Washington (7-2), Middlebury (7-2) and Bates (6-3). Chandler Lusardi anchors the returnees from last year, playing the No. 1 spot for the Jeffs, while No. 2 Arielle Lehman was named to the second team All-NESCAC.

Series History Versus Amherst
Harvard leads the all-time series against Amherst, 10-0. The Crimson swept the Jeffs last season, 9-0, and have swept seven of the 10 matches in the series.

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 Karki
Michelle 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. After remaining atop the rankings for the first three polls of the season, Harvard fell to No. 2 after dropping a match to Princeton, 5-4, in the Jan. 13 rankings.

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 33-3 (.916), 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.

Up Next
Harvard returns to Ivy League play with matches against Columbia and Cornell Feb. 2 and 3.