New Haven, Conn. – Rookies Sachika Balvani (Mumbai, India) and Kanzy El-Defrawy both posted 3-0 victories to turn a 3-3 tie into a 5-3 match-clinching lead, as the Trinity College Bantams pulled off a 6-3 upset win over the top-seeded and previously-undefeated Princeton University Tigers in the College Squash Association (CSA) National Championship (Howe Cup) Semifinals this afternoon at Yale University's Brady Courts.
Trinity, which had its regular-season finale against the Tigers canceled due to last weekend's blizzard in Connecticut, has a two-game winning streak in the Howe Cup against Princeton, having won, 6-3, in the 2011-12 Third-Place Match in the last meeting between the teams before today. Trinity improves to its season record to 16-2, while the Tigers fall to 12-1, having lost to only the Bantams in their last 14 matches dating back to last year. Princeton will play Pennsylvania in the Third-Place Match tomorrow at Yale.
"It was great to beat an undefeated Princeton, but we knew we could do it," said Trinity's 29-year Head Coach Wendy Bartlett. "This team has had two goals, first make it to the finals of the Howe Cup, and, second, to win it. That is all we have been focusing on since wrokouts began. The players have been working so hard, doing all the right things, and playing disciplined squash. I knew it would all come together at the Howe Cup. Each player is now at the point where they love the five-game matches because they know they can stay out there forever. We are one of the most fit teams out there. To win tomorrow we just have to keep playing the same way and make every match a marathon."
Trinity, seeded No. 4 in the tournament, advances to the Howe Cup Finals for the sixth time and the first time since the 2005-06 campaign. The Bantams will play No. 2-seeded Harvard, which downed No. 3-seeded Pennsylvania, 6-3, in the other semifinal today, at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Yale. In their regular-season matchup on February 6, Harvard defeated the Bantams, 7-2, in Cambridge. Trinity won the Howe Cup in 2001-02 and 2002-03, defeating Harvard in the 2001-02 Finals for its first National title. Harvard, which has won 13 Howe Cups including the 2011-12 crown, boasts a Howe Cup Finals win over the Bantams in 2000-01.
Junior Wee Nee Low (Penang, Malaysia) shook off a 3-1 defeat in yesterday's 7-2 victory over No. 5-seeded Yale in the CSA Quarterfinals to earn a win over Princeton sophomore Nicole Bunyan (Victoria, British Columbia) by the same score, and sophomore Natalie Babjukova (Prague, Czech Republic) improved her unblemished season record to 18-0 with a dramatic 3-2 triumph over Tiger junior Lexi Saunders (Wilmington, Del.) to give the Bantams a 2-1 lead after the first wave. Babjukova rallied back from a 2-1 deficit with an 11-8 win in game four and a 12-10 victory in game five. Bantam senior tri-captain Robyn Hodgson (Aberdeen, Scotland) salvaged the second wave with a 3-1 win at the No. 5 position over sophomore Alex Lunt (Greenwich, Conn.), knotting the overall team score at 3-3 two-thirds of the way through.
Balvani and El Defrawy took it from there, as Balvani won three nail-biters, 12-10, 11-9, and, 12-10, over junior Alex Sawin (Haverford, Pa.) in the No. 7 match, and El Defrawy dominated at the top spot for an 11-1, 11-9, 11-5 victory over senior Julie Cerullo (Brooklyn, N.Y.) who was ranked No. 4 in the nation individually at the end of the last year.