All season, Princeton women's squash head coach Gail Ramsay has believed that her team, if playing well at the right time, could beat anybody when the Howe Cup championship weekend rolls around. She knew it wouldn't hurt if Princeton could grab one signature victory before those championships, just to prove her point.
Mission accomplished, and accomplished in a big way.
The fifth-ranked Tigers defeated No. 4 Trinity 8-1 Saturday afternoon in the Princeton home finale. The win could move Princeton from fifth to third in the Howe Cup seedings, considering Trinity scored a 5-4 win over Penn earlier. It was also quite a reversal from the 2011 regular season finale, when Trinity scored an 8-1 home win over Princeton; of course, the Tigers bounced back one week later to defeat the Bantams 5-4 in the third-place match during Howe Cup weekend.
"We are all very excited about this win over Trinity," head coach Gail Ramsay said. "We thought we had a good chance to find five wins, but eight was more than I counted on. This win will give us the boost we need to head to Boston in two weeks to play our best squash.
"We believe in ourselves and feel like we have a strong and talented lineup," Ramsay added, "but this win definitely adds to our confidence. We are looking forward to tomorrow's match with Columbia and then the Howe Cup."
Playing a three-shift format, Princeton raced out to a 3-0 edge. Sophomore Alex Sawin was the first to post a win, sweeping Robyn Hodgson at the No. 6 position. She fought hard to clinch the match in three with a 13-11 win in the third. Freshman Nicole Bunyan, who will be competing in her first championship weekend at the end of the month, continued her strong play with a 3-1 victory over Ashley Tidman. Her lone loss was a 13-11 defeat in the third game, which was still a far cry from her 20-18 win over Cornell in the opener Friday night.
Getting the shift sweep would be a challenge for junior Casey Cortes, who needed to go five games with Chanel Erasmus. Cortes has proven time and again the ability to pull out marathons, especially at Jadwin, and she did so again Saturday afternoon. After an 11-8 win to open the match, Cortes dropped the next two games. Unfazed, she recorded back-to-back 11-4 victories to finish the match and open the 3-0 lead.
Princeton capitalized on that momentum with a dominant second shift. Sophomore Lexi Saunders scored a 3-1 win over veteran Jen Pelletier at No. 5, and classmate Libby Eyre put the match away with a 3-0 win over Alicia Rodriguez. Eyre came up with the big points in the first two games, scoring wins of 13-11 and 12-10 before finishing the match 11-3. Freshman Alex Lunt continued her perfect weekend with a 3-0 win at No. 8.
"Pulling out a huge win this weekend against Trinity is a major confidence boost," Saunders said after finishing her match with an 11-8 win in the fourth. "It will only make us train even harder in the next two weeks for the Howe Cup."
Senior Katie Giovinazzo, the lone member of The Class of 2012 to play Saturday, made her final Jadwin match a special one. With consistent shotmaking, she topped Naty Babjukova 3-0 and lost only 15 total points to build Princeton's lead to 7-0. Freshman Hallie Dewey added a 3-0 victory over Andrea Echevarria at the No. 7 spot, while Trinity got its lone win at No. 1 in a battle of Top-5 standouts.
The Bantams' Catalina Pelaez won three tight games, including a 14-12 finale, to defeat Princeton junior Julie Cerullo 3-0.
"Today's win has given us the confidence we need going into Howe Cup," Cerullo said. "We see it as the beginning of us peaking, and we're confident that our best performances are yet to come. I think we surprised Trinity with the decisiveness of our win, but we're thrilled to set the bar high and look forward to surprising some other teams in two weeks."
Princeton will conclude its regular season Sunday afternoon when it takes on Columbia in New York City. A win for the Tigers would clinch a winning record in Ivy play.
#5 PRINCETON 8, #4 TRINITY 1
1 – Catalina Pelaez (T) d. Julie Cerullo 10,8,12
2 – Libby Eyre (P) d. Alicia Rodriguez 11,10,3
3 – Nicole Bunyan (P) d. Ashley Tidman 8,7,(11),7
4 – Katie Giovinazzo (P) d. Naty Babjukova 5,4,6
5 – Lexi Saunders (P) d. Jen Pelletier 6,8,(9),8
6 – Alex Sawin (P) d. Robyn Hodgson 6,6,11
7 – Hallie Dewey (P) d. Andrea Echeverria 9,5,8
8 – Alex Lunt (P) d. Pame Larromana 7,9,7
9 – Casey Cortes (P) d. Chanel Erasmus 8,(5),(6),4,4