Sunday, February 10, 2013

Penn and Princeton

A Rollercoaster Month


2013 has had some big highs and lows for the Crimson.  In mid-January, we faced Penn and Princeton on the road.  Penn is always a tough opponent on their home courts, which are unusually hot and bouncy.  Their women's team also has a large crop of international recruits this year, which made for one of the most highly anticipated matches of the season.  

We faced especially tough match-ups at the 3 and 2 positions with both Haley Mendez and Laura Gemmell finding themselves down 0-2 on the show court.  In front of the booming Quakers crowd, they were able to make adjustments, control the pace and turn the tide to win in 5 games.  Saumya Karki was able to put on a strong performance (straight off a flight from Mumbai, no less!) and captains Natasha Kingshott and Sarah Mumanachit earned victories at the 6 and 7 positions, respectively.  Izzie Dowling lost in 4 games to the highly touted freshman Camile Lanier.  Nonetheless, she played some of her best squash of the season.  Julianne Chu was able to pull out a win in her first big match since coming back from injury.  With the other matches finished, the entire crowd gathered around the center court to watch Sobhy's rout of Nabilla Arrafin at the no. 1 position.

The guy came out strong and were able to handle their Penn opponents while only dropping one individual game.

Penn Men's recap

Penn Women's recap

Dinner at the McLaughlin's
"This is the best thing that has ever happened!"

-So cried Baltimore native Jay Brooks, after the Ravens beat the Broncos in overtime during the playoffs.  We were at the McLaughlin's house after the Penn match for a wonderful team dinner.  After a few added parents and friends were added to the mix, the guest list totaled over 60 people!  The McLaughlins laid out of wonderful spread and were amazing hosts (anyone who has spent time with Slade McLaughlin will know that he takes hosting duties to heart!).   After dinner, the women took some time to relax in the living room before the drive to Princeton as the boys couldn't be rallied away from the football game. 

Thanks very much to the McLaughlin's for a wonderful evening!


The following day was the most difficult one of the season.  Princeton is always a tough opponent but we believed that we would win.  We lost a few key match-ups and fought our way back but came up short in both matches.

The women were first on first and every match was hard fought, though we were not able to  overcome Princeton's early lead. The brighter notes on the Crimson women's side included wins by Amanda Sobhy, Laura Gemmell,  Saumya Karki and Natasha Kingshott.  Each woman on our team learned about as competition that day about dealing with nerves and maintaining focus.  

The men were introduced after the women had finished and we desperately wanted to avenge the loss. We went down in a couple matches in the middle of the order and fought to regain our footing. Tommy Mullany and Zeke Scherl played well earned important victories on the day, as they both have throughout this season.  Jason Michas, looking solid as ever, stayed on top of his opponent with a 3 game victory.  Meanwhile, on the show court, Brandon McLaughlin was struggling with errors, having gone down 2-0 against Sam Kang of Princeton.  Brandon was able to battle back with a flurry of winners to tie at 2-2.  In the last few points of the fifth, Sam played incredibly tough despite a cramp, and was able to hit some phenomenal shots to take the match.  

The Princeton match slipped away from us 5-4 on both sides and we are determined to prove what we are capable of at Nationals.  To their credit, both Princeton teams have played well all season.   

Afterwards, our players had a couple of days off and most were able to rest and regroup at home before getting back to work.

Princeton Men's Recap

Princeton Women's Recap

Amherst Round Robin

The following weekend, we travelled to the Pioneer Round Robin at Amherst College for our players lower in the lineup on both teams to get some competitive experience against .  Our top nine guys would also face Western Ontario while the women played Hamilton.

Western seems to be a dark horse every year.  They struggle with consistency, but with their full lineup, they could threaten to knock off any team in the country.  In the first round, we found ourselves down 0-1 in games in several critical matches.  Matt Roberts and Jason Michas both had matches that went the distance with both players winning in the fifth.  Jason had a particularly spectacular finish at 19-17!  Gary Power was able to take out James Van Staveren, a raw talent who had a phenomenal junior career.  Nigel Koh finished off his skilled opponent in emphatic fashion with a scoreline of 8,4,8.  Tactically, it was his best performance of the year.  By the end of the match, we were able to right the ship and pull away to an 8-1 victory.

The men's "Jacked Varsity" played in the match against Amherst that afternoon.  Charlie Cabot and Shaw McKean lead introductions on the packed show court.  Sachin Patel, Jake Matthews and Peter Janulis earned victories in the top nine.  Nikhil Mehra's match stretched into a marathon and as the other matches finished the gallery grew crowded.  He won 20-18 in the fourth in front of his cheering teammates.

On the women's side, Julie Monrad scored an impressive and difficult win over Hamilton at the 15 spot, beating her tall and athletic opponent in 5 tough games on an unusually loud  court.  Eliza Calihan, Natasha Anzik, Georgiana Brinkley and Allie Sperry posted wins in the top 10 against Amherst.  The day was not as competitive for the women as for the men, but it was a great day to enjoy each other's company with a team lunch and blindfolded cartoon contests during downtime.  It was a day to lift the spirits and get back on our feet after a tough loss for both teams.

Below is a video of Ali playing Albert Shoihet, Western's no.1 player.  Albert, who is Beth's son and Mike's son-in-law, had a real challenge on his hands.  Playing Ali on a dead court is about as tough as it gets in college squash.  The first game was particularly exciting with incredible winners from both players.  The next two were not as close and Ali was able to pull away.

Ali v. Albert Shoihet

Western and Amherst Men's recap

Hamilton and Amherst Women's recap

Reception in NYC

January ended on a high note for our team.  On the weekend of Jan 26th, Harvard alumni from different generations gathered at the Harvard Club in New York to meet and play with current team members.
The weekend was kicked off on the Friday evening with dinner with the seniors generously arranged by Greg Lee and Russell Ball.  Players at the dinner included Alex Ma, Laura Gemmell, Charlie Cabot, Shaw McKean, Eliza Calihan, Jason Michas, Zeke Scherl, Sarah Mumanachit, and Natasha Kingshott.  It was a great chance for them to sit down with two wonderful supporters of the program and swap stories about their experiences as part of Harvard Squash.

Saturday afternoon featured a hit-around between alumni and current players and an entertaining exhibition match between the 2010 and 2012 Intercollegiate Champions: Ali Farag and Colin West.  At the cocktail reception that followed, the team members introduced themselves and mingled with Harvard squashers from years past.  We heard a few words from Associate Athletic Director, Tim Wheaton, Mike Way, Hope Prockhop, Bill Kaplan, Tim Wyant and the captains of both the men's and women's teams.  Everyone affirmed that we need to continue this annual gathering to celibrate our shared experience and keep the bonds of Harvard Squash strong.  The players enjoyed the chance to  meet so many of the people who have been in their place before and have gone on to do great things.  The coaches loved being able to catch up with so many wonderful people and hope to see many of them at Men's and Women's Nationals at Yale.  

With so many wonderful people involved,the event is sure to keep growing next year.  Special thanks to Richard Chin (a Big Red man, but we love him anyway!), Tim Wyant, Charlene Neo, Joe and Diana Edge Dowling and our Friends Chairs Hope Prockop and Bill Kaplan.

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