New Haven, CT — Harvard and Penn won their semifinal matches to advance to tomorrow’s Howe Cup final.
The first semifinal was a rematch of last year’s Howe Cup final, with defending champions Harvard taking on Trinity. In fact, it was a rematch of the last three Howe Cup finals, with Harvard winning two titles to Trinity’s one. Since winning the 2015 national title, Harvard hadn’t lost a match, a streak that included a 7-2 win over Trinity in late January. The Bantams’ regular season was bracketed by a pair of 4-5 losses: to Stanford in November and to Princeton last weekend.
Sisters Alyssa and Sophie Mehta, playing at number 3 and number 9, respectively, gave Harvard an early 2-0 lead. Trinity’s Jennifer Haley won 14-12 in the third to put the Bantams on the board.
In the second round of matches, Harvard’s Michelle Gemmell won in three at number 5, and her Crimson teammate Dileas MacGowan won in four at number 8. Harvard needed one more win to sew up their spot in the final. Trinity’s Raneem Sharaf held off Harvard’s seemingly inevitable advance with a four-game win at number 2.
While Trinity’s Kanzy El Defrawy and Anna Kimberley won their matches, it was too late. Saumya Karki’s three-game win at number 7 gave Harvard their fifth win. The final score was Harvard 5, Trinity 4.
The other semifinal featured the second seed, Penn, versus third-seeded Princeton.
Given that they had defeated the Tigers 8-1 in the regular season, Penn came into their semifinal against Princeton as the favorite. After all, the Quakers’ only loss of the season had come against Harvard; Princeton had losses to both the Quakers and the Crimson.
Yan Xin Tan won in three games at number 3 to give the Quakers their first win, and Rowaida Attia won in four at number 6 to give them their second. The number 9 match was a battle between Princeton’s Isabel Hirshberg and Penn’s Grace Van Arkel. After dropping games one and three, Hirshberg claimed games four and five to win the match for the Tigers. The score was Penn 2, Princeton 1 coming out of the first round.
Two three-game victories from Anaka Alankamony at number 2 and Michelle Wong at number 8 put Penn within striking distance of finals match-up with Harvard. Tara Harrington won at number 8 to keep Princeton’s hopes alive, but a three-game win from Marie Stephan at number 4 put the Quakers into the final.
Even though the outcome had been decided, the last two matches on court both went to five games. Samantha Chai won at number 7 for Princeton and Reeham Sedky won 12-10 in the fifth for Penn at number 1.
The final score was Penn 6, Princeton 3.
In the consolation semifinals, Yale and Stanford both clinched early in their respective matches with Cornell and Columbia. Yale won by a score of 7-2 over Cornell, and Stanford also won with a score of 7-2 over Columbia.