Princeton, NJ — Trinity defeated Harvard this afternoon to win the 2014 Women’s National Team Championships. Playing before a passionate crowd at Princeton’s Jadwin Gymnasium, Trinity captured the Howe Cup by a score of 5-4.
Trinity had come within a match of the national title a year earlier. Harvard clinched the 2013 Howe Cup early, but Trinity closed the gap in the remaining matches to fall 4-5 to the Crimson.
Harvard was the top seed coming into this year’s tournament. The Crimson were looking to win their third consecutive national title and fourth championship in the last five years. They had gone undefeated during the regular season, capturing the Ivy League title along the way. Harvard’s closest match of the year had been a 5-4 win over Trinity in Hartford earlier in the month.
That match was Trinity’s only loss of the regular season. The Bantams posted a 13-1 record and won their eighth consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title.
Trinity was seeded second overall in the tourmanet, and they followed a path similar to Harvard’s through the main draw: the Bantams defeated Stanford 9-0 in the opening round and beat Penn 6-3 in the semifinals, and the Crimson opened with a 9-0 win over Dartmouth followed by a 6-3 win over Yale.
Harvard got on the board first in today’s match, as Katie Tutrone came back from down 0-1 to defeat Trinity senior Wee Nee Low at #3.
After Tutrone’s win, it looked like Harvard could sweep the first round. Megan Murray won in four over the Bantams’ Chanel Erasmus at #9, and Julianne Chu came back from 0-2 to tie the #6 match against Natalie Babjukova at 2-all. But Babjukova, a Trinity junior, regrouped to win the fifth game and give Trinity their first match.
The second round of matches was even closer. Trinity senior co-captain Catalina Pelaez, who was awarded the 2014 Richey Award the night before, took down Haley Mendez in four at #2. Trinity’s Jennifer Pelletier and Harvard’s Isabelle Dowling traded the first four games at #8, but Pelletier won the crucial game five to put Trinity ahead 3-2. Michelle Gemmell of Harvard went up two games to love over Trinity’s Ashley Tidman, and it looked like the Crimson would even the match score until Tidman staged a dramatic comeback. Her five-game win gave Trinity a 4-2 lead.
Harvard won the next two matches: Amanda Sobhy won in three games over Kanzy El Defrawy at #1, and Dileas MacGowan kept Sachika Balvani from stealing a come-from-behind win of her own. MacGowan’s five-game win at #7 tied the match 4-all.
The national championship came down to the #4 match between Harvard sophomore Saumya Karki and Trinity first-year Anna Kimberley. Karki won the first game, but Kimberley battled back to take the second and third.
Before the fourth game, Trinity fans began chanting “Let’s go, Anna!” Harvard fans, not to be outdone, answered with “Let’s go, Saumya!”
The fourth game stayed close through 5-all. Kimberley opened a lead up to 8-5, but Karki came within a point again at 9-10. But the game was Kimberley’s: she won 11-9 in the fourth, and Trinity won the 2014 Howe Cup.
There’s something about court 2: the last time Princeton hosted the Women’s National Team Championships, the Howe Cup final came down to the #4 match, which was played on the same court. That time, a Harvard player lost in four games to a first-year player from the United Kingdom with “Kimberley” a part of her name: Kim Hay of Yale.
For Trinity, though, that coincidence is immaterial. What matters most is that today the Bantams became national champions.
Trinity is led by head coach Wendy Bartlett and assistant coaches Randy Lee, Vikram Malhotra, and Chris Binnie. Pelaez and Melva Lopez are co-captains.
This is Trinity’s third national team title in women’s squash.