Princeton, NJ — A week ago, Yale and Harvard faced each other for the 2011 Ivy League title. It was an epic match, coming down to the fifth game of the final match. Yale, then the number two team in the nation, upset the defending national champions 5-4.
Today’s rematch had even more at stake, with the Bulldogs and the Crimson competing for the Howe Cup, the top team title in women’s college squash. Playing at Princeton University, Yale prevailed 5-4 to win the 2011 Women’s National Team Championships. With the score tied 4-4, Yale first-year Kim Hay pulled out a clutch 3-1 win over Harvard’s June Tiong to seal the win for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs, who are led by head coach Dave Talbott, associate head coach Gareth Webber, and assistant coach Pam Saunders, came into the match undefeated this season. After a 5-4 scare in early December to Penn, Yale had turned in a series of dominant performances throughout the season. Dartmouth and Trinity both managed push the Bulldogs to 6-3, but Yale’s biggest test didn’t come until the final dual match of the season, when they defeated Harvard 5-4 in a truly epic contest. Playing at Harvard, the two team’s came into the final match tied 4-4, and Yale’s Caroline Reigeluth defeated Harvard’s Sarah Mumanachit 11-7 in the fifth game to preserve a perfect regular season for the Bulldogs. Yale was presented with the Barhite Award at the Women’s College Squash Association’s award ceremony last night; the Barhite Award is given annually to the team with the best dual-match record of the season.
The Crimson, who are under the direction of Mike Way, the Gregory Lee ’87 and Russell Ball ’88 Endowed Coach for Squash at Harvard University, and assistant coach Chris Smith, opened the season in an impressive fashion. Coming into February, the Crimson top nine had not dropped a single game to another team. It looked like the 2010 Howe Cup winners would continue their unbeaten streak into the 2011 finals. Then in early February Penn gave Harvard a 5-4 scare of their own, and Trinity and Princeton won two matches each off the Crimson. The loss to Yale bumped Harvard down to the number two seed coming into the tournament.
Yale’s and Harvard’s paths to the finals at Princeton were almost parallel. Yale swept Dartmouth 9-0 in the opening round, with only the number one match between Yale senior captain Logan Greer and Dartmouth captain Hannah Conant going beyond three games. Harvard opened with a 9-0 sweep of Cornell; senior captain Alisha Mashruwala’s number three match with Jesse Pacheco was the only contest to take more than three games.
In the semifinals, Harvard pulled out a hard-fought win 6-3 over third-ranked Trinity. Two of Trinity’s three wins were five-game matches, and the other Bantam win went to four games. Of the other matches, only three were decided in three games; Harvard won the match, but Trinity made them work for it.
While the Yale-Princeton semifinal did not have as many four- and five-game matches, the Bulldogs hardly had an easy trip to the finals. Coming into the final round of matches, the two teams were tied 3-3 and the stands were packed with Princeton fans. But Yale pulled away in the final round, winning all three matches, including two three-game wins.
The 2011 Howe Cup final featured the top two teams in the nation, closely matched squads with long traditions of competitive success. Today’s Howe Cup win is Yale’s seventh, and with their national titles in 2004, 2005, 2006, the Bulldogs are now the winningest program in the last ten years.