-As the women's CSA season
enters its final hectic few weeks, several noteworthy themes have emerged,
beginning with the strength of the Trinity varsity, whose 8-1 victory
against arch-rival Harvard was all the more impressive for coming on enemy
turf at Cambridge, especially in view of the bare-margin 5-4 struggles
the Lady Bantams had had with Harvard in both the dual meet and Howe Cup
final last season.
Trinity No. 1 Amina Helal, the
powerful junior who reached the final of the Individual championship two
years ago and defeated teammate Lynn Leong to win the event last year, led
the way with a 3-1 win over Crimson star Louisa Hall, who was just two weeks
removed from a breakthrough march to the championship of the Harvard Club
of New York Invitational, a U. S. Team Selection event, where she defeated
the Khan sisters Latasha and Shabana, in each case for the first time, as
well as Yale No. 1 Michelle Quibell, whom she will face in a few weeks when
Harvard and Yale meet to determine the 2003 Ivy League crown.
Amina Helal. (photo © 2003 Debra Tessier)
Helal's toughest competition
so far this season has come from Penn's Runa Reta, who toppled her in
the Trinity-Penn dual meet and took her to a close four games in the final
of the Betty Constable Invitational last month. Reta and her teammates
won over Princeton, whose sub-par 2002-2003 season was punctuated by the
5-4 loss they suffered to Williams just this past weekend,
the first time in the history of these programs that Williams has prevailed.
The match was played at a neutral site at Yale, whose varsity had pummeled
Princeton 9-0 (27 games to zero) just the day before, but neither that
distinctively unhelpful backdrop nor the departure just days before of
Annie Rein-Weston, Princeton's No. 3 player, who will be studying abroad
this semester, can fully account for this unprecedented outcome.
Rather, it was the newfound
strength the Williams squad now boasts at the
bottom half of the line-up came to the fore, as witness its sweep of the
6-9 positions, that combined with the noticeably improved Clare Whipple's
five-game win over Patricia Gadsden at No. 2 to give this signature moment
first-year coach Zafi Levy, a former Williams all-American himself who
graduated in 2001 and succeeded Dave Johnson this fall when the latter
promoted to the dean's office after a dozen years at his alma mater's
Whipple routed Gadsden by identical 9-1 scores in the first two games,
lost her way in the middle portion of the match before coming through
much-needed 9-5 win in the fifth.
Her tight victory was supplemented
by wins in the "evens" shift by Lexi
Lee over Rebecca Shingleton at No. 6 and Whitney Halligan (in five) over
Princeton's Kasey Degan at No. 8. Anne Warner contributed a win at No.
Princeton's cause, but the score still stood at 3-1, Williams as the
odd-numbered players took the court. Lizzie Reifenheiser dispatched Helen
Smith 3-0 at No. 9 to put Williams just one victory away and when No.
Neal rallied from a 7-0 first-game deficit to take it in a tiebreaker,
Tiger opponent Jenny Shingleton was unable to recover and Neal was home
with the clinching victory.
Canadian star Ruchika Kumar was
much too much (9-4,4 and 2) for Williams senior captain Adrienne Ellman
to handle at the top spot and Jaye Gregory gave Princeton its final point
with a rallying four-game win over Jo Leathers (who led 1-0, 7-5 before
fading), but it was too little, too late for the Tigers, who now find themselves
in a rebuilding phase after several Howe Cup and Ivy League championships
in recent years. Princeton's fortunes took a downward turn when three-time
Intercollegiate Individual champion (1999-2001) Julia Beaver and 2002 Nationals
finalist Meredeth Quick graduated in May 2001, but head coach Gail Ramsay,
now in her ninth season after six years heading the Williams program, is
too formidable a teacher and recruiter for the current Tiger slump to continue
co-captain and #1, Adrienne Ellman. (photo © 2003
Buoyed by this breakthrough
victory, Williams now hosts the Little Three Invitational (Williams, Amherst
and Wesleyan) this weekend, where they will be heavy favorites, while
Harvard journeys south for away matches on consecutive days against Penn
and Princeton. Defending Ivy League champion Harvard should handily win
both of these meets, though Hall figures to be strongly challenged by
both Reta and Kumar. The Howe Cup to determine the national team champion
is set for the weekend of February 14-16, with the Harvard-Yale clash
to take place in Cambridge on the 19th and the season-ending Individuals
tournament to follow at the very end of February.
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