By Anne Bello
Published Sep 15, 2009 at 4:00 PM ET; Updated Sep 21, 2009 at 10:06 PM ET

harvardCambridge, MA — Harvard came so close last year: so close to winning the Ivy League title, so close to winning the national team title. Two 4-5 losses to Princeton — one during the regular season, the other during the Howe Cup finals — were all that stood between the Crimson and an undefeated season. With all ten of last season’s starting players returning, the national and Ivy championships are well within the Crimson’s reach.

Among the returning players are Ivy League 2009 Rookie of the Year Nirasha Guruge, who earned first-team All-American and All-Ivy honors; juniors June Tiong, Alisha Mashruwala, and  Bethan Williams, who were all second-team All-Americans, with Mashruwala taking All-Ivy honors as well; and Emily Park, who also earned second-team All-American honors in her first season of collegiate play. Seniors Katherine O’Donnell and Johanna Snyder will captain the team, and Cece Cortes, Ali Zindman, and Sandra Mumanachit will also return.

In O’Donnell and Snyder the Harvard women have two especially well-qualified  team leaders. Snyder, who has started since her first year at Harvard, served as captain last season and brings considerable experience to the team. She finished last season with an 11-3 record and received the team’s 2009 Coaches Award. “Hannah’s leadership qualities are a true asset to our team, and it’s a joy to work with such a coachable player,” says assistant coach Chris Smith.

O’Donnell, the team MVP, is in the Navy ROTC program and participates in a weekly Leadership Lab as part of her  ROTC commitments. O’Donnell spent a month this summer in Sattahip, Thailand,  on a DDG (Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer), learning from officers and enlisted personnel in different departments. “I feel really blessed to be able to go to Harvard, play squash, and serve my country,” she has said. “The opportunities I get from Harvard, Harvard squash and the Navy are unparalleled and all add to my development as a person and a leader.”

O’Donnell and Snyder will be leading a team that will be even deeper than last year’s thanks to the addition of five talented first-year players. Joining the team will be Eliza Callahan, who earned the US Squash Scholar-Athlete Award from 2006 to 2009; Laura Gemmell, the winner of  21 national squash championships, including five U.S. Junior Opens and six Canadian Junior Opens; Natasha Kingshott, who was the No. 5 player on the 2007 and 2009 U.S. Junior national squash teams and won the U-17 national squash title in 2006; Sarah Mumanachit, who helped Episcopal Academy win the U.S. High School team championship in 2007 and has set the school’s records for the 100m and the 4x100m and 4x400m relays in track; and Vidya Rajan, the 2006 U-15 winner of the U.S. Junior Open and the Canadian Junior National Open.

The team has plans to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity this year and to continue to volunteer with the Kids Squash Program, a free community squash program for local players. The team is also considering a training trip to India.

2008-2009 Season Recap

SEASON RECORD: 10-2
FINAL RANKING: 2nd
NATIONAL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2nd; 2nd in Howe Cup (A Division)

2009-2010 Season Preview

Returning Players from Team Championships: Nirasha Guruge ’12 (1; All-American, All-Ivy); June Tiong  ’11 (2; 2nd-Team All-American); Emily Park ’12 (3; 2nd-Team All-American); Alisha Mashruwala ’11 (4; 2nd-Team All-American, All-Ivy); Katherine O’Donnell ’10 (5); Bethan Williams ’11 (6; 2nd-Team All-American); Johanna Snyder ’10 (7); Cece Cortes ’12 (8); Ali Zindman ’11 (9); Sandra Mumanachit ’10 (10)

Graduating Players from Team Championships: None

Additions to 2009-2010 Roster: Eliza Calihan ’13, Laura Gemmel ’13, Natasha Kingshott ’13, Sarah Mumanachit ’13, and Vidya Rajan ’13

Captains: Katherine O’Donnell and Johanna Snyder

Team Goals: To win the Ivy League title and the national title

Key Match: Princeton

To read other team previews, please visit the 2009 – 2010 College Squash Preview Page.