Amherst, MA — Harvard first-year Amanda Sobhy defeated Millie Tomlinson of Yale to win the Ramsay Cup and the 2012 women’s individual championships. The event was played at Amherst’s Davenport squash courts.
In 2010, a Harvard first-year player rolled through the regular season, not dropping a single game and helping her team to win the Howe Cup. She advanced to the finals of Ramsay Cup, where she faced a player she had defeated in three games during the season. It looked like the individual title was a foregone conclusion, but as if out of nowhere, her opponent pushed her to five games in one of the most dramatic individual finals in recent memory. The match came down to the final points, and that Harvard player — Laura Gemmell — won the 2010 individual title.
A lot has changed since then. Pamela Hathway, Gemmell’s opponent in the 2010 final, has graduated from Trinity. Last season Gemmell saw her first intercollegiate loss thanks to Millie Tomlinson of Yale. Tomlinson, then a first-year player, went under the radar most of last season playing #2 and #3 for Yale behind two seasoned All-Americans, Logan Greer and Sarah Toomey. Tomlinson had helped Yale win 5-4 over Harvard at the 2011 Howe Cup, and two weeks later she delivered a command performance in the 2011 individual finals, winning in three strong games. Tomlinson had showed flashes of her potential during the regular season, but until the finals college squash hadn’t seen how well she could play.
Enter Amanda Sobhy, a first-year at Harvard this year and the 2010 World Junior Champion. Sobhy has been ranked as high 17th in the world, and she stepped into the Harvard line-up as #1. Once again there was a first-year player from Harvard who hadn’t lost a game during the regular season and who had helped her team win the Howe Cup. But if Gemmell had been dominant in her first season in college squash, Sobhy was something else. She held opponents to just a few points each match. During the regular season, her three-love win over Tomlinson (11-6, 11-3, 11-5) helped Harvard pull out a 5-4 win over Yale to claim the 2012 Ivy League title. A week later, she held Tomlinson to just five points (11-1, 11-3, 11-1) as Harvard handily won the 2012 women’s team title.
Once again, it looked like Harvard would sweep the women’s national team and individual championships. Sobhy cruised through the draw, winning all her matches in three. She defeated Gwen Tilghman (Yale) in the opening round, followed by Pia Trikha (Penn) in the round of 16, Libby Eyre (Princeton) in the quarterfinals, and Julie Cerullo (Princeton) in the semifinals. Of the three, Tilghman won the most points off of Sobhy: just eight in the entire match.
Tomlinson had looked strong as well in her march through the draw. She won three of her four matches in three games, defeating Lexi Saunders (Princeton) in the opening round, Yale teammate Kim Hay in the quarters, and Gemmell in the semifinals. Only Harvard’s Haley Mendez really tested her; their match in the round of 16 went to five, with Tomlinson winning 11-6 in the fifth.
When Tomlinson and Sobhy had played in the Howe Cup finals at Harvard, the team match was clearly going the Crimson’s way. Today’s match was being played at a neutral site, with no team match at stake. Would Tomlinson be able to reverse the outcome of their last two matches?
Sobhy quickly built up a lead in the first game, thanks to several tins from Tomlinson and a stroke against her. At 6-0 Sobhy tinned a shot, giving Tomlinson her first point of the match. After a let due to contact, Tomlinson lost the serve with another tin and then missed the return off of Sobhy’s serve. Sobhy ran up the score to 9-1 with an ace, but Tomlinson took the next point with a tight forehand drop. The momentum of the game began to shift and Tomlinson started a run, with Sobhy tinning and then giving a point to Tomlinson on a stroke. At 5-9 Sobhy won on good length to Tomlinson’s backhand, and after a let ball and a missed return, Sobhy took the first game 11-5.
Tomlinson came out with guns blazing in the second game, moving Sobhy out of position and hitting low and hard. At 3-0 a tin from Tomlinson put Sobhy on the board, but the Yale sophomore continued to put pressure on her opponent, winning the next point on a reverse boast. Another tin from Sobhy put the score at 5-1 for Tomlinson. Then the Yale sophomore tinned and Sobhy began to work her way back point by point. She rolled a shot at 2-5, and at 3-5 hit a working boast that caused Tomlinson to bang her racquet as scrambled to retrieve it; the shot was too good. Tomlinson, however, was not done. At 5-all she regained the serve with a kill that drew appreciative nods from the audience, but Sobhy evened the score again and won four unanswered points to bring the score to game ball. A cross-court drive gave Tomlinson one more point, but Sobhy bounced back and quickly ended the game 11-7.
The third game opened with a stroke to Tomlinson, who ended the next rally by calling her ball not up, tying the score at 1-all. The game stayed close through the next few points, and at 4-3 to Sobhy the two traded a series of beautiful drops, with Sobhy placing the winner just out of Tomlinson’s reach. At 7-6 Sobhy cut the point short by hitting a nick, and Tomlinson responded by grinding out a long point, answering hard drive with hard drive. But Sobhy matched and exceeded Tomlinson’s best. At 10-6 Tomlinson grabbed one more point with a stroke against Sobhy, but the defending champion tinned the next point, effectively passing the Ramsay Cup to Sobhy, the 2012 women’s individual champion.
Sobhy finishes her first season of collegiate play undefeated and a team and individual champion. She is Harvard’s first women’s individual champion since 2010.