Women’s squash finishes 8th in nation

After taking a week’s hiatus, women’s squash (16-10) came to the Howe Cup Championship looking to prove that they belonged among the best teams in the country. The Howe Cup, which is also known as the ‘A’ division, brings together the top eight women’s squash teams in the country to compete for the championship title. In the first round, No. 8 Williams fell to an undefeated Harvard team that has been ranked No. 1 for most of the season and that would eventually claim the 2010 Howe Cup. Although the women encountered an unstoppable force in the Harvard team Friday night, they continued to fight hard in the course of a loss to No. 4 Princeton in the consolation semifinals on Saturday. The women rounded out their season Sunday afternoon in the final game and the team’s third loss of the tournament against seventh-ranked Cornell.

Sunday afternoon, women’s squash finished up its season with a 7-2 loss to Cornell. The loss wasn’t without strong play: Alli Rubin ’13 played excellent defense, forcing her opponent to score 14 points in the second set, but otherwise couldn’t ramp up her offense and failed to win a single set. No. 3 Courtney Bogle ’12 fought hard as well: After losing her first set, Bogle won the Ephs’ first set of the day. Unfortunately, she was unable to build on that victory and lost in four sets.

Tri-captain Jennifer Coxe ’10, playing in the No. 2 slot, also lost her first set, but then won three in a row to vanquish Cornell’s Jaime Laird for the win. Tri-captain Toby Eyre ’10 had an even rougher road to victory, losing the first two sets of her match against the Big Red’s Rebecca Hazell before going on to close out the match and the weekend with a 3-2 victory in New Haven.

On Saturday, Williams rebounded from a tough loss against Harvard the night before to battle No. 4 Princeton, the reigning national champions. The Ephs fell 7-2 to the Tigers.

The team’s tri-captains led by example, helping the Ephs stay close to the Tigers. Coxe, Eyre and Caroline Henry ’10 all played through five sets on the day. Playing in the No. 5 position, Henry bounced back from a first set loss to win the second and third sets. However, Henry couldn’t maintain her momentum and dropped the next two sets. Simultaneously, Coxe, at No. 2, was matched up with this year’s top squash recruit, Princeton first-year Julie Cerrulo. In a repeat of the Feb. 14 competition between the two women, Coxe was able to win the first set. The Eph then lost a marathon second set 13-15 before roaring back to win the third set 11-2. Cerrulo returned the favor, defeating Coxe by the same score in the fourth set before claiming the fifth set and the victory.

The best match of the day was at the top between Eyre and Tiger No. 1 Amanda Seibert. Eyre lost a close first set 10-12 before battling out a marathon second set to the 34th point to claim a two-set advantage 18-16. An exhausted Eyre fell in the third set but staved off elimination by winning the fourth set. The tri-captain was able to claim the win for the Ephs with a fifth set win.

The Ephs’ other win came in the No. 9 position, where the Tigers failed to supply an opponent for Carolyn Kaemmer ’13, who won by default.

Williams couldn’t rise to the challenge of No. 1 Harvard on Friday night: The Crimson blanked the Ephs 9-0. The Harvard women were efficient and effective, with none giving up more than six points in any given set. Harvard No. 1 Laura Gemmell, who defeated Eyre at the top of the ladder, remains undefeated on the season.

Even though the women couldn’t pull out a victory, Head Coach Zafi Levy was pleased with their performance on the weekend. “Going into the tournament we knew it would be very hard to win a match in the ‘A’ division,” he said. “None of the ladies gave up, and all played to win.”

The Howe Cup wraps up the team’s 2009-10 season. The Ephs will graduate four seniors – Eyre, Coxe, Henry and Julia Reiser ’10 – but will return 10 players to continue the program’s growth next year. Eyre, Coxe, Laura Henry, Caroline Henry, Bogle and Rubin will represent the team at Individual Nationals at Trinity this weekend.

Despite the loss of the seniors, Levy is hopeful regarding next season. “We have five freshman on the top 11 players,” he explained. “I have seen a huge improvement in [their] level of play.”