Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 7
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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HOWE ABOUT THAT: Princeton University women’s squash star Amanda Siebert follows through on a shot in a match earlier this season. Last Sunday, junior star Siebert pulled out a 9-5, 0-9, 2-9, 9-5, 9-1 win over Harvard’s Nirasha Gurgue at No. 1 as Princeton edged the Crimson 5-4 to win its third straight Howe Cup national team title. The Tigers finished the season with a perfect 13-0 mark.

Displaying a Never-Say-Die Mentality, PU Women’s Squash Wins 3rd Howe Cup

Bill Alden

On paper, it looked like the Princeton University women’s squash team was a virtual lock to win the Howe Cup national team title last weekend at Harvard.

Princeton had won the last two national titles and came into the weekend undefeated and ranked No. 1.

But Princeton head coach Gail Ramsay knew her team was in for a dogfight.

“In the last two years, I felt we were better than the other teams,” said Ramsay, who is in her 15th season guiding the Tigers and has led the program to four national titles in her tenure.

“This year I didn’t feel we were better, only equal. This is the most competitive year in college squash. Yale, Harvard, and Trinity are all very good teams loaded with really good players.”

The parity between the top teams was demonstrated in the national semifinals last Saturday as Princeton had to scratch and claw its way to a 5-4 win over Trinity.

The pivotal win in the nailbiter for Princeton was provided by Kaitlin Sennatt who trailed Joan Jee 2-1 before pulling out the fourth game to keep Princeton’s hopes alive.

In the decisive fifth game, both players served match ball but Sennatt persevered to pull out a 10-9 win and punch Princeton’s ticket for the championship match against host and second-ranked Harvard.

Ramsay wasn’t surprised that junior Sennatt came through. “Kaitlin is a clutch player,” said Ramsay, whose team opened the Howe Cup competition with an 8-1 win over Williams College.

“Her attitude is ‘Gail, if there is a way to win, I’ll find it’ without saying that. We were trying to get her to focus on cutting off the girl’s shot. She felt good in the fifth.”

Ramsay didn’t feel all that good as her team faced a rematch with a Harvard team it had narrowly beaten 5-4 a week earlier.

“We knew it would be tough,” said Ramsay. “It is never fun at Harvard anyway.”

Tiger junior star Neha Kumar showed her toughness as she fought through injury to give Princeton a crucial 3-1 win at No. 2. “Kumar has been hurting on her right side,” said Ramsay.

“It went from her wrist to her elbow to her shoulder to her neck; something like tendinitis. She is still hitting the ball with accuracy and pace; she can zap it when she needs to.”

Sophomore Nikki Siqueira didn’t let a quad injury keep her from from making a comeback for the ages at No. 8 as she rallied from a deficit of 2-0 and 7-2 in the third game to pull out 3-9, 3-9, 9-7, 9-0, 9-3 win.

Princeton’s top player, junior Amanda Siebert, produced one last rally to put Princeton over the top.

“She was down 2-1 and trailing 5-2 in the fourth,” recalled Ramsay of Siebert, who ultimately topped Nirasha Gurgue 9-5, 0-9, 2-9, 9-5, 9-1.

“I am thinking what is going on, Amanda can play better than this. She needed to cut off the court and the other player’s short attack. She got in a groove in the fifth.”

In reflecting on the program’s three-peat, Ramsay praised her players’ battling spirit.

“It was incredible, it was a not-to-be-denied attitude,” said Ramsay, who also got wins from Emery Maine at No. 3 and Katie Giovinazzo at No. 9 in the triumph over Harvard.

“They were totally respectful of the opposition; they knew how tough the other teams were.”

But in the final analysis, no team was tougher than Princeton. “We were missing people at various points but they stepped up at the right time,” said Ramsay, whose squad finished the season with a 13-0 record.

“While squash is an individual sport; there was a real team feeling with this group. When one girl faltered another would step up, everyone had to contribute. It proves to me if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it. They worked extraordinarily hard.”

And they achieved something extraordinary in the process.

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