Is anybody going to derail the Crimson express?
It's time again for squash teams to pop that annual question, as the Harvard racquetmen, engineered by John Wooden-like mentor Jack Barnaby, steamrolls toward the national championships for the 11th time in 12 years.
The squad, spearheaded by captain Peter Briggs, who was the nation's top player last year, opens its crusade for the title starting Monday, when it faces MIT in the first of its 12 contests this season.
But it doesn't look so easy this time, admitted Barnaby, who enters his 40th straight year as head coach.
"Things seem to be stacked against us this season more than they normally are. Naturally, we're the target for every team we've knocked off in the past, but the main factors against we are that we graduated half the guts of last year's squad, and also that we have to play our three biggest matches on the road."
Navy, Penn and Princeton respectively, figure to threaten the Crimson's success, which last season included a winning record of 172 out of 180 individual matches. All of these challenges come on foreign courts within just a two week span near the end of the year.
"This could be the year we get jolted," he said, "but I never look at it that way--this is a year we can prove we're real champions by winning under adverse condition. I know we'll be a solid team, but the challenge is mastering a good level-handed attitude and the determination to prove we're the best no matter what." Harvard certainly has the talent, on last season's nucleus returns, having swept all three divisions of competition in the 1972 National Intercollegiate Squash Racquets Association tournament (NISRA) last spring.
The tournament is organized in three division: the A division for play among the top two performers on each team, the B level for third and fourth players, and the C class for the fifth and sixth recquetmen.
The Crimson made a clean sweep, and at the awards banquet embarassed Barnaby asked for a wheelbarrow to cast off the heap of Harvard silverware.
Briggs, a senior gunning as intercollegiate champ, anchors the top spot. "He is amazingly quick," Barnaby praised, "and in my opinion, he's the best player in the league, and nobody's proved me wrong about that."
Moving up to the second position is senior Andy Wiegand, who last year won what Bernaby called "one of the most exciting matches I've seen in a while" in the semifinals of last season's NISRA tourney.
Junior Glen Whitman holds down the third spot. Last year, playing ninth on the Crimson ladder. Whitman stunned everybody as he dramatically came into his own by spilling the second best college racquetmen in the nation in a Christmas tournament and then splashing through a number of seasoned players to win a tourney in Canada.
In the fourth position is under Neil Fosters, a finalist last season in the C division of the NISRA.
Advancing to round out the top nine respectively are senior Rob Sedgwick, junior Archie Gwathmy, and sophomore Penn Blasier Steve Mood, Tim Morgan and Dick Cashin.
"If these guys, who moved up to the middle spots from last year's lower spots, do as well in their higher rankings this season, we'll be very strong." Barnaby summed up.