With two freshmen and two sophomores among the top nine players on the women's squash team, one may have given the No. 3 Tigers little hope of winning a national championship.
But that goal is definitely in full view now, after Princeton (8-0 overall, 6-0 Ivy League) held off No. 2 Penn, 6-3, Monday night in Philadelphia. The Tigers completed just their second-ever undefeated Ivy League season, despite losses at the No. 2 and 3 spots.
Leading the youth movement was freshman No. 1 Julia Beaver, who defeated rival Jessica DiMauro in three games, 10-9, 9-0, 9-7. Beaver's win was her second in two tries against DiMauro this season, the previous victory coming in the Constable Invitational Tournament.
"I had beaten her before, but not very decisively," said Beaver. "I wanted to prove to her that the win wasn't a fluke."
On her heels
In one of Beaver's best matches of the season, she utilized an attack that kept DiMauro on the defensive throughout the contest. With the win, Beaver remained undefeated in regular-season play this year.
Sophomores No. 4 Blair Irwin and No. 6 Liz Kelly also played quality matches to give the Tigers a decisive edge. They both won in convincing fashion, each needing only three games to polish off their Penn opponents.
Junior No. 2 Elise O'Connell and senior No. 3 Missy Wyant were the only victims of the tough upper half of the Quakers' lineup. Penn's Katie Patrick defeated O'Connell in three games while Wyant suffered a four-game defeat.
The victory came after another decisive win over Ivy foe Yale Saturday at Jadwin Gym. The Tigers cruised to victory, 9-0, winning each of the 27 games played.
"I thought they'd be a little deeper," head coach Gail Ramsay said of the No. 4 Elis. "They were a little less strong than I was hoping for."
The ease of victory allowed the Tigers to prepare for the Quakers and get ready for the Howe Cup this weekend, when they will be playing for the national championship.
After victories over the top two teams in the country – Princeton also downed No. 1 Harvard earlier this season – the team will head to New Haven, Conn., as the favorites to emerge victorious.
"We're going to give it our best shot," Beaver said. "But with squash, anything can happen on a given day."
Reaching the summit
According to Ramsay, the Tigers' play is peaking at the right time.
"I still think they have their best squash ahead of them," she said. "But the window of opportunity is theoretically not that big."
Princeton will face the fourth-seeded team in the tournament, most likely either Yale or Williams. The Tigers defeated both of those teams earlier this season by a combined score of 18-0.
Penn will probably play Harvard in a grudge match between the secondand third-seeded teams, leaving the victor to play in the championship match.
If Princeton continues its blistering play this weekend, there is little doubt that it will bring a national championship home, a victory last savored in 1991.
"When you are No. 2, your goal is to be No. 1," Ramsay said. "We all believe that we have a good chance as long as we keep playing our best."