NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Seniors Blair Irwin and Liz Kelly hoped that when they graduated they would be able to join an elite group of Princeton graduates — one that has been populated most recently by former members of the men's lacrosse team. They hoped to become two of the rare Princetonians who had in their possession three national championship rings.
But these women's squash captains will have to be satisfied leaving this university with only two — still far more than the average Tiger athlete — as Princeton (11-2 overall, 5-1 Ivy League) fell to Penn, 5-4, in the finals of the Howe Cup yesterday at Yale.
In this three-day tournament for the team national title, the local rivals were seeded No. 1 and No. 2. To reach the final round, the Tigers trounced Brown, 9-0, on Friday, and beat Trinity 6-3 on Saturday. The top-seeded Quakers (11-0, 6-0) defeated Cornell, 8-1, on Friday and Harvard, 5-4, in the semifinals.
Princeton was looking to defend its back-to-back national championships and to pay back Penn for the Tigers' only loss of the season Jan. 26. It was not to be, though, as the Quakers captured their first-ever Howe Cup.
"It was tough," head coach Gail Ramsay said. "They had five players who had our players' numbers today."
Princeton's wins were evenly dispersed throughout the nine-person lineup — at No. 1, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 7. All of the Tigers' losses came in three-game sweeps by the Quakers.
In hopes of gaining a win, Penn had switched its No. 1 and No. 2 players. Runa Reta, usually the No. 1, played junior Meredith Quick at No. 2 yesterday, while Katie Patrick played junior Julia Beaver at No. 1.
Although Quick had lost to Patrick during the Jan. 26 match, the following weekend she reversed that outcome at the Constable Invitational. Rather than face a rematch of these two players at No. 2, the Quakers juggled their lineup.
At the Howe Cup, Reta proved to be too much for Quick, whom she had never played before, and the Tiger lost in three games.
"They had some strategically placed people, and that helped them today," sophomore No. 7 Courtenay Green said.
Princeton fell behind early, 4-2. This meant that the Tigers had to win all three of their remaining matches in order to defend their title, with the matches at the No. 1, No. 4 and No. 7 spots still to come.
Beaver handily defeated Patrick, 3-0, at the No. 1 spot leaving the match in the hands of Kelly at No. 4 and Green. Kelly's match was decided first, with the Tiger losing, 3-0.
"Liz played her heart out today," sophomore No. 5 Anna Minkowski said. "She's had such a great season."
Green won her match, 3-2, to round out the final score.
Though the Tigers were hoping to reverse the results of their earlier match against Penn, everyone who won in the Jan. 26 match won yesterday as well, so the end result remained the same.
"I'm disappointed, but we did a great job this season," Irwin said. "I'm confident we'll get them next year."