Women's squash optimistic coming into Kurtz Cup finale

Coming into the week as the 11th-ranked team in the nation, the Jeffs were looking for an opportunity to slip into the top bracket in next weekend’s Howe Cup, reserved for the top eight teams in the country. A win over eighth-ranked Williams could have catapulted Amherst into the higher bracket.

The women started Saturday off with a convincing 9-0 victory over Wesleyan in which the Amherst squad won every game. The romp was punctuated by a perfect 9-0, 9-0, 9-0 victory by senior co-captain Ashley Harmeling in the number-one spot over Wesleyan’s Brigid Dwyer. The feat was almost repeated three more times by Libby Martin ’08, Emily O’Brien ’07 and Ali Gibbs ’05, each of whom lost just one game in their respective matches.

The team’s match against the much-hated Ephs did not go quite as smoothly. The Jeffs had quite a bit riding on the match-up. In addition to a possible spot in the top 10 in the country, this match marked the seniors’ final chance to defeat Williams for the first time in their four-year careers.

Harmeling once again justified her place at the top of the ladder, forcing an exceedingly close four-game match against Williams’ Claire Whipple (10-9, 7-9, 2-9, 10-8). From there on out, however, it was mostly downhill for the Jeffs. Gibbs was the only other player to steal a match as the Ephs rolled to victory. “We fell to Williams, but played well and learned a lot individually in our matches,” said Abby Mantica ’07.

On Monday, the squad was hoping to bounce back with an upset or at least a strong showing against top-ranked Yale, but the Jeffs had their hearts broken as the Elis demonstrated why they are the top team in the nation, rattling off 27 straight wins to take the match. Nevertheless, the stiff competition was excellent practice for this weekend’s postseason play.

“We hope to come back from Yale and Williams with what we’ve learned and capitalize in the Kurtz Cup,” said Mantica.

Going into Princeton, the Jeffs will have a chance to take on both Bates College and Cornell University in the Kurtz Cup, reserved for teams ranked ninth through 16th by the CSA. Playing at Ithaca earlier this season the Jeffs lost perhaps their closest match of the year to the Big Red. The Jeffs led 4-3 in matches before dropping the last two. Against Bates just a few weeks ago Amherst lost 7-2, but many of the individual matches were tightly contested. This year will be a rematch from last season’s Kurtz Cup when Amherst was able to beat Cornell 5-4 but lost to Bates by the same score.