Cambridge, MA — Thirty-seven teams competed in five divisions at the 2009 Women’s National Team Championships (Howe Cup), hosted by Harvard University. Princeton defeated the home team 5-4 in the Howe Cup (A Division) finals to claim their third consecutive national title.
The two teams had a met a week earlier, when Princeton had held off the Crimson in a tight 5-4 match to take the Ivy League title. Coming into the National Team Championships seeded second, Harvard beat Stanford convincingly in the quarterfinals and dominated the bottom of UPenn’s ladder to win their semifinal match 7-2. The Tigers had a rougher road to the final: after cruising past Williams 8-1 in the opening round, they were pushed hard by a tough Trinity squad in the semifinals, ultimately pulling out a 5-4 win.
Harvard had changed the top of its ladder order since the last time the teams had met, so several players faced different match-ups than they had a week earlier. Princeton’s Neha Kumar and Emery Maine won decisively at 2 and 3, respectively, and Nikki Sequeira and Katie Giovinazzo hung on to win close 3-2 matches at 9 and 10. The Crimson controlled the middle of the ladder, with wins by Katherine O’Donnell, Bethan Williams, and Joanna Snyder at 5, 6, and 7. It was still anyone’s match to win going into the third and final shift of matches. Harvard needed to win at 1 and 4 to take the national title, but Princeton only needed to take one match. The Tigers’ Amanda Siebert and the Crimson’s Nirasha Guruge played to five games in the number 1 match, with Siebert sealing the national title for Princeton with a 9-1 win in the fifth. Harvard’s Alisha Mashruwala pulled out a 3-1 win over Kaitlin Sennatt at number 4, but it wasn’t enough: undefeated Princeton had won the Howe Cup for the seventeenth time.
In the Kurtz Cup (B Division), the ninth-seeded Bears of Brown faced off against the tenth-seeded Dartmouth Big Green. When the two teams had played during the regular season, Brown came out on top of a close 5-4 match. Coming into the finals, Brown was relatively fresh after easy wins over George Washington and Bowdoin, while Dartmouth had been pushed in a 5-4 semifinal win over Mount Holyoke after cruising past Hamilton in the opening round. The finals showcased Brown’s depth, as the Bears swept 5 through 9. While Dartmouth won at 1, 2, and 4, Brown took home the Kurtz Cup for the first time with a final score of 6-3.
NESCAC rivals Amherst and Tufts competed for the Walker Cup (C Division). The two teams had met twice in the regular season. Amherst swept the Jumbos in their first match, but Tufts closed the gap and narrowly lost to the Jeffs by a score of 5-4 in the NESCAC tournament. Tufts wasn’t able to reverse the results in the Walker Cup final, and Amherst took the C Division with a 6-3 win.
After a challenging season, the injury-plagued Northeastern Huskies upset Connecticut College to make it to the Epps Cup (D Division) finals, where they faced the top-seeded team in the division, William Smith. The Herons, who had swept Wellesley and then beaten Georgetown 8-1 en route to the finals, proved to be too strong for the Huskies, a club team. With a 6-3 win, William Smith took home its third team title in four years, having won the Walker Cup in 2006 and 2007.
In the Emerging Teams Division, five-player teams competed in round robin play. The closest match-up came between BC and Cal, which had both had convincing wins over Notre Dame and Drexel. Cal came out on top of BC with a 3-2 win, but the division was dominated by Vermont, who won all of their matches by scores of 5-0 or 4-1, proving they are a team to watch for the future.
The 37th Howe Cup saw close matches, thrilling performances, emerging talent, and the renewal of long-standing rivalries, setting up next year’s season as one to watch.