Nearly four years in the making, senior Sivasangari Subramaniam overcame tough losses, a pandemic and battled through injury to finally covet the prestigious Ramsay Cup –– the top-flight at the College Squash Association National Collegiate Individual Championships –– making her the first Cornell squash player to win an individual national championship.
During her time at Cornell, Subramaniam has come very close to bringing home the national championship. As a freshman she lost in the final, and as a sophomore, she lost in the semifinals. Being in the final again, as the No. 1 seed, meant there was a lot of pressure on Subramaniam to succeed.
“I felt she handled the pressure really well all week”, said Head Coach David Palmer. “When it got really down to the pressure situation today, I was really proud of how she came through right at the end of the match and played very smart and showed everyone how skillful she really is.”
After sweeping her first three opponents, and not dropping a single game, Subramaniam faced a tough opponent in the final: the No. 2 seed, Hana Moataz of Harvard. Coincidentally, it was Moataz that ended Subramaniam’s hopes at the 2020 CSA National Individual Championships in the semifinals.
This time around, Subramaniam was victorious, beating Moataz in a grueling five-set match. Subramaniam got the lead by winning the first game, but Moataz quickly responded by taking the next game. After narrowly winning the third game, and serving for the match at 10-7 in the fourth game, Subramaniam lost her foothold, and Moataz stormed back to take the fourth game, 14-12.
“I tried to play each point at a time, but I think, it’s just all the nerves and everything was just coming into my mind, and it was really frustrating to not get that game,” said Subramaniam.
With a back and forth to finish the fifth game, it looked like it could have been anyone’s game. The fifth game was tied at 5-5 when Moataz began showing signs of fatigue. Subramaniam capitalized on that and never looked back, securing the game and the championship. With this victory, Subramaniam became the first Cornell squash player — man or woman — to win an individual national championship.
“To be the first one ever in Cornell sports history to win it…it’s going to be a day to remember,” Coach Palmer said. “It really sets the tone for the program.”
This victory meant a lot for Subramaniam as she beat Moataz, who ruined her chances at making the finals two years ago.
“I just really wanted to take revenge on her because she beat me 3-1 two years ago in the individuals…this year I really wanted to win, not just for me, but Cornell, too,” Subramaniam said.
Subramaniam ended her season, for the first time in her collegiate career, undefeated, winning 19 straight matches in a row. Her last loss came from Moataz during the 2020 National Championships. Her first round victory at the individual championships guaranteed her a spot on the CSA All-American first team as well.
Subramaniam, who is currently ranked 23rd in the world in the Professional Squash Association Rankings, has only been defeated four times during her time with the Red. Ironically enough, all four losses were at the hands of players from Harvard, the team that has consistently topped the CSA team rankings for nearly a decade.
“It definitely means a lot…and I am really happy to be winning for Cornell,” Subramaniam said.
She even credited Coach Palmer and Assistant Coach Mark Burke for her success as well. “Both the coaches have been working really hard to always make the program better each year, so winning this will definitely be huge for them.”
Subramaniam will be returning next spring to don the carnelian and white once again whilst also finishing her degree. She will be taking a leave of absence for the fall semester to compete for her home country, Malaysia, in the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2022 Asian Games.
Although this season just ended, Subramaniam has already set her goals high for next season. Individually, she wants to be undefeated again and win one more national championship, but more importantly, she has high hopes for the team.
“[I want to bring] the team into the top 8, and hopefully top 4 because [they] will be having a stronger team next year,” Subramaniam said.
The Cornell squash program as a whole is grateful to have Subramaniam return for one more season.
“Just having Siva on the team, around the team, for both the men’s and women’s team [is very] motivating”, Palmer said. “For our girls to be on the court with her and train with her is a very big advantage that we have. So we are fortunate that she is gonna be with us for another season and we will definitely take full advantage of it.”
Four other players from Cornell also competed at this weekend’s championships. Competing on the men’s side was junior Veer Chotrani, sophomore Spencer Yager and freshman Arnaav Sareen.
Chotrani had made it to the quarterfinals before bowing out to the No.1 seed from Princeton, Youssef Ibrahim, who is ranked 17th in the Professional Squash Association World Tour. Sareen won the consolation draw of the Molloy Trophy South bracket, which was part of the B Division of the National Championships. Competing for the Ramsay Cup, along with Subramaniam, was sophomore Wen Li Lai.
Lai made it to the quarterfinals but lost to Moataz. However, by reaching the quarterfinals, she is guaranteed to be named to the CSA All-American first team along with Subramaniam. This is the first time in program history that the Red had two selections for the All-American first team.