Harvard's squash team, which obliterated Dartmouth yesterday, is back in the running for its sixth consecutive national championship. National honors in the gentleman's sport aren't nebulous debates like football, but are fairly cut and dry because all the good teams are in the East and play each other during the regular season. When the perenially favored Crimson was victimized by screaming Annapolis galleries and dropped a 6-3 decision to Navy last month, it looked as if the Midshipmen would steal the crown.
But last weekend, Penn, a team Harvard beat 5-4, upset Navy in one of the most dramatic matches in intercollegiate history. The Midshipmen won four of the top five matches, while the Quakers captured the bottom four.
The only players left on the Philadelphia courts were the number two men, Clay Hamlin for Penn and Bob Earl for Navy. Their match went down to the fifth game, which then was knotted at 13-all. Playing the best five out of nine from there, Earl went ahead 4-3 and had to win only one of the next two points to win his contest and the overall match. But Hamlin won the next point when his shot hit the poorly positioned Earl on the way to the front wall. Possibly upset, Earl then failed to return Hamlin's next serve and Penn had pulled out the victory, 18-17 in the fifth game of the ninth match.
Penn, Navy, and Harvard are thus tied, with one loss apiece. The championship will be decided by comparative scores against mutual opponents. The Crimson was awarded the title on this basis last year, beating out the Quakers, and Coach Jack Barnaby would feel no compunctions about using the same back door this time around.
Barnaby reasons that Navy plays three of its four toughest opponents--Army, Princeton, and Harvard--at home, while the Crimson this year plays three of its four--Princeton, Penn, and Navy--away. The Crimson mentor doubts that Navy is a better team and cites Harvard's 9-0 win at Cambridge last year and the fact that the Crimson won where the Midshipmen lost, at Philadelphia, though the last is a shaky support. Further evidence is that Earl beat Harvard's Rick Sterne at Annapolis but lost in an equally close five-game tournament match on a neutral New York court over Christmas vacation.
Comparative scores up to the present leave Harvard a shade behind Navy. The upcoming matches which may decide the title are February 15 here against Williams, which Navy beat only 6-3. Both teams have clashes with Princeton, Harvard's arriving February 22 in New Jersey. If the Crimson can top the Ephmen and Tigers by big scores, it may not have to give up the intercollegiate trophy after all. Penn, by comparative scores, is out of the running, but Barnaby is not ignoring the Quakers. As a matter of fact, yesterday he sent a card to Coach Al Molloy with the message, "God bless the University of Pennsylvania."
Rick Sterne, Harvard's number two racquetman, played some impressive squash over intersession to reach the finals of the John Jacobs Invitational Tournament at the Harvard Club of New York. The Crimson southpaw advanced through a strong field and beat McGill's Peter Martin in the semi-finals. Martin, it will be remembered, is Canada's intercollegiate champ and gave Harvard's top man, Anil Nayar, a five-game battle in their last meeting. An hour and a half after beating Martin, Sterne had to play the finals, which he lost to Andy Mulver.