PHILADELPHIA – The fifth-ranked Penn squash team seemed to be inches away from upsetting the defending Howe Cup champions, No. 1 Harvard, on Saturday at the Ringe Squash Courts. Unfortunately, a slow start for the Quakers (4-1, 0-1 Ivy) was too much to overcome, as the Crimson (5-0, 2-0) took the match, 6-3.
After starting off slow in the first rotation of matches – Penn dropped all three at positions three, six, and nine – the Red and Blue surged forward, taking two of the three matches during the second rotation. Unfortunately, some of the later games had already ended in Harvard’s favor, amounting to the final match of the day, No. 1, being meaningless.
At No. 3, Rachael Goh (3-1, 0-1) took on Haley Mendez (4-0, 2-0). Goh started quickly, taking two of the first three games – 11-7, 10-12, 11-2 – giving her a 2-1 edge. But the final two games of the match went to Mendez, who seemed to outhustle Goh throughout them. At positions six and nine, Yarden Odinak (1-1, 0-1) and Ailsa Agnew (4-1, 0-1) both fell to their opponents, 3-0, which left Penn trailing Harvard as a team, 3-0, with just six matches remaining to make up the defecit.
The second round of matches was a different story, as Penn’s No. 8 Camille Lanier (4-0, 1-0) and No. 5 Pia Trikha (2-0, 1-0) led the way, each defeating their opponents, 3-1. Lanier met Isabelle Dowling (4-1, 1-1), and the two split the first two games, followed by Lanier sweeping the next two. For Trikha, the first game was very close, but she was able to pull it out, 13-11. She then went on to win two of the next three games to seal the victory for her team, putting the Quakers within one of the Crimson, 2-3.
The most exciting match of the day was at No. 2 between Yan Xin (3-1, 0-1) and Laura Gemmell (3-0, 2-0), which lasted well after two of the three third-rotation matches began. While the No. 2 position match was going on, so was No. 7 between Courtney Jones (2-1, 0-1) and Sarah Mumanachit (4-0, 2-0). Jones was able to jump out the early 1-0 lead, but was unable to compete with Mumanachit for the final three games, falling 3-1, which put all the pressure on Xin to keep the Quakers within striking distance for their final two matches of the day.
Xin’s match at No. 2 was a five-game battle that started very well for her. The freshman from Malaysia dominated Gemmell, one of the top players in the country, and won two of the first three games. The final two games went Gemmell’s way, as the veteran was able to use her stamina to outplay the younger Xin, winning the match, 3-2, and the day for the Crimson by giving them their fifth overall victory.
No one told Haidi Lala (3-0, 1-0) – the freshman from Cairo, Egypt played in her first collegiate Ivy match on Saturday – as her match at No. 4 also went the full five games. Lala went up 2-0 early on Michelle Gemmell (2-1 1-1), but dropped the next two, bringing the match to a decisive fifth game. Lala dominated, earning her first-career collegiate Ivy victory, 3-2.
Despite Lala’s win, Penn was now trailing Harvard, 3-5, heading into the final match of the day at No. 1 between Nabilla Ariffin (3-1, 0-1) and the highly touted Amanda Sobhy (2-0, 1-0). Ariffin was very competitive throughout, but Sobhy was too much, winning the match, 3-0, and sealing the 6-3 victory for the Crimson.
The Quakers will be back in action at Ringe tomorrow, Jan. 13, at 11:00 a.m. against another Ivy opponent, No. 8 Dartmouth (3-1, 0-1).
Harvard 6, Penn 3
No. 1: Amanda Sobhy (H) def. Nabilla Ariffin (P) 3-0, (11-3, 11-4, 11-3)
No. 2: Laura Gemmell (H) def. Yan Xin (P) 3-2, (9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4)
No. 3: Haley Mendez (H) def. Rachael Goh (P) 3-2, (7-11, 12-10, 2-11, 11-4, 11-4)
No. 4: Haidi Lala (P) def. Michelle Gemmell (H) 3-2, (11-5, 11-4, 12-14, 9-11, 11-4)
No. 5: Pia Trikha (P) def. Saumya Karki (H) 3-1, (13-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-3)
No. 6: Natasha Kingshott (H) def. Yarden Odinak (P) 3-0, (11-2, 11-7, 11-9)
No. 7: Sarah Mumanachit (H) def. Courtney Jones (P) 3-1, (8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-5)
No. 8: Camille Lanier (P) def. Isabelle Dowling (H) 3-1, (11-6, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4)
No. 9: Julianne Chu (H) def. Ailsa Agnew (P) 3-0, (11-8, 11-7, 11-8)