Second-Ranked Women's Squash Hosts Columbia, Cornell This Weekend

Second-Ranked Women's Squash Hosts Columbia, Cornell This Weekend

Senior co-captain Natasha Kingshott leads the team with seven wins (Gil Talbot). 

Scene Setter
No. 12 Columbia and No. 6 Cornell both pay visits to the No. 2 Harvard women's squash team this weekend. The Lions head to Cambridge Saturday, while the Big Red will make its biannual appearance at the Murr Center Sunday. Both matches are set for noon. 

Last Time Out
Harvard rebounded from its setback at Princeton by recording sweeps of Hamilton and Amherst Jan. 19. The Crimson won 16 of the 18 matches 3-0, including all nine against the Continentals. Laura Gemmell earned a pair of wins at the No. 1 position for the Crimson, while senior co-captain Natasha Kingshott picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 4 on the afternoon.

Related Article: 9-0 Victories Posted by No. 2 Women's Squash Over Amherst, Hamilton

About No. 2 Harvard

After the two wins in Amherst, the Crimson is 7-1 on the year and 2-1 in Ivy League play. Senior co-captain Natasha Kingshott paces the team with a 7-0 mark. Natasha Anzik and Laura Gemmell are tied for second on the team with 6-0 records, and Sarah Mumanachit is 6-1 on the year. Harvard is also undefeated at positions one, two and six on the ladder and 68-11 overall.

About No. 12 Columbia (Team Page)
The 12th-ranked Lions are 3-6 overall and 0-3 in Ivy League play after dropping their last two matches to Middlebury, 6-3, and Williams, 7-2. No. 4 Kate Calihan was the lone player to earn wins in both matches, and she now leads the team with a 6-3 record. Reyna Pacheco, who plays at the No. 2 spot, is 5-4 and the only other player on the squad with a winning record.

Series History Against The Lions
Harvard leads the all-time series against Columbia, 1-0, after winning last year's meeting on Feb. 3.

About No. 6 Cornell (Team Page)
The Big Red are No. 6 in the CSA polls after narrowly missing a chance to upset No. 4 Trinity, dropping a 5-4 decision. Cornell was ahead 4-2, but the Bantams swept the final rotation to stay undefeated against the Big Red. Prior to the loss, Cornell had swept its previous five matches by 9-0 margins, including Ivy League foe Brown. Freshman Abbey Foster and senior captain Margaret Remsen are tied for the team lead in wins with nine apiece, while Rachel Au and Jessesnia Pacheco both have eight.

Series History Against the Big Red
The Crimson has never lost to Cornell, holding an 18-0 advantage in series meetings. Harvard has swept the past four meetings, including a 9-0 victory Feb. 5, 2012 in Ithaca.

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 50-0 at the position in the last four years. Senior Laura Gemmell leads the way with 30 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, Bates, Amherst and Hamilton in 2012-13, winning all 54 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. The program record for shutouts in a season is 10, set by last year's team, which leaves the Crimson within striking distance, needing four to tie it with at least six matches remaining.

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 Jan. 13, 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.

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. 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 leads the team with a 7-0 record this year, while Mumanachit is 6-1 in 2012-13.

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 35-3 (.921), 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 entertains Trinity Feb. 6 in its final midweek showdown of the year.