One year after a missed match ball left Princeton with a heartbroken
trip home from Boston, the deep, talented Tiger roster turned the tables
on the top-ranked team in the country. Freshman Rachel Leizman fought
off a match ball to win at No. 4, and junior Alex Sawin finished the job
with a late comeback in the fourth game at No. 7.
The win keeps the fourth-ranked Princeton women's squash team
unbeaten in both the Ivy League (2-0) and overall (5-0), but most
importantly, it gives the Tigers their first victory over Harvard since
2009. That was also the last time Princeton won the Ivy League women's
While this win will certainly bolster Princeton's chances, there is
still a long journey ahead for the Tigers. Unbeaten Yale will likely
move to the No. 1 spot, and the Bulldogs host Princeton Feb. 2 in New
Haven. Fifth-ranked Penn pushed Harvard in a 6-3 loss Saturday, and the
Quakers will travel to Jadwin for Princeton's next match on Jan. 30 at 5
But to be 2-0 after this daunting weekend was everything head coach Gail Ramsay could have hoped for.
"I felt all along that, on a good day, that it would come down to
whoever wanted it the most," Ramsay said. "Harvard fought hard and
they’re a very good team, but today, we had the determination to get it
done. I’m proud of the team's performance overall. We battled to the
With the match tied at 3-3 heading into the final shift, and with
former Junior World champion Amanda Sobhy taking the court for Harvard
at No. 1, Princeton knew it would need to sweep at No. 4 and No. 7.
Leizman, the highest-ranked freshman on the Princeton squad, played a
marathon against Michelle Gemmell. She trailed 10-9 in the fifth, but
found a way to score the next three points and clinch a 3-2 win.
"I think it shows a lot about [Rachel's] character," Sawin said. "If
there is one person I would have picked to play Michelle, it’s her. She
is one of the most stable players on our team. She had never been tested
like that here, but she constantly impresses me."
Sawin played on the next court, and she consistently had to deal with
loud cheers at Jadwin throughout the first two games while Leizman's
match concluded. Once Sawin knew her younger teammate had pulled off the
win, she got down to business against Sarah Mumanachit. The Tiger
junior took the third game for a 2-1 lead, but found herself trailing
5-1 in the fourth.
"I think I was so excited that I made a lot of unforced errors,"
Sawin said. "I calmed down and stuck to the game plan. All I thought
about was 'one point at a time.' I wasn't thinking about winning the
game, just winning each point."
It got to 9-9, and then the two went on the see-saw, trading and
fighting off game (or match) balls. At 15-14, Sawin finally put it away
and bent over in both joy and exhaustion on the center of the court.
"As a junior, I had never beaten Harvard," she said. "Every year, I
said we can do it. This year, it felt more possible. Our lineup is so
strong, and everybody is playing great. I knew going into today, saying
let’s beat Harvard really meant more than it ever did.
"This is about the most intense match I’ve played in my college career," she added.
Princeton took care of business early, going up 2-1 after the first
shift. Sophomore Nicole Bunyan scored a 3-1 win at the No. 3 position (after dropping the opening game),
and freshman Tara Harrington took control in the fifth game of her match
at No. 9. After splitting four close games, Harrington posted an 11-3
win to take the match.
"I started the match out nervous with this being my second Ivy League
match," said Harrington, whose brother Steve is the men's co-captain
and was part of the 2012 national champion team. "I was so happy to get
the first game, and I think by the fourth game, I was so much more
relaxed. I started to play my game, and I was really motivated. I felt
so relaxed in the fifth game. I stayed patient, but I was also
Harvard picked up wins at No. 2 and No. 5, and the Crimson led 2-0 at
the No. 8 spot. Princeton sophomore Hallie Dewey, who had been dealing
with an injury earlier in the season, shook the rust off just in time
for a critical comeback. She scored wins of 11-3 and 11-6 to force a decisive fifth game, and she pulled through with a huge 11-9 win to give Princeton its third victory of the day.
Dewey came off the court and hugged Sawin, who said she would win it
for her. In truth, though, this tight-knit squad has always done it for
"We were doing it for everybody on the team," Sawin said. "We
definitely wanted to win one for the seniors, but we really wanted to
win one with them. It's for everybody."
And it was thrilling.
#4 PRINCETON 5, #1 HARVARD
1) Amanda Sobhy (H) d. Julie Cerullo 3,4,4
2) Laura Gemmell (H) d. Libby Eyre 6,(8),5,7
3) Nicole Bunyan (P) d. Haley Mendez (9),8,6,9
4) Rachel Leizman (P) d. Michelle Gemmell (9),7,9,(7),10
5) Saumya Karki (H) d. Alex Lunt 7,2,8
6) Natasha Kingshott (H) d. Lexi Saunders 8,2,5
7) Alex Sawin (P) d. Sarah Mumanachit 4,(10),5,14
8) Hallie Dewey (P) d. Isabelle Dowling (5),(10),3,6,9
9) Tara Harrington (P) d. Megan Murray 10,(8),9,(7),3