PHILADELPHIA, Pa.--It may have been the National Squash Tournament's peculiar incentive system that did in the Crimson racquetmen this weekend.
The reward for each win was another day of play in Philadelphia. And three days in Philadelphia was more than enough for Harvard's racquetmen.
The five-man tournament team flew back to Cambridge Sunday, exhausted and flu-stricken, after a 1-4 defeat to Ontario in the quarterfinals of the team competition.
Unseeded Harvard played unseen by spectators in the peripheral courts of Penn's Ringe Gym all weekend. The pastel corduroys, the tweeds and the Lacoste shirts were out in full force--but not to watch their alma-mater. Rather, the women's and men's national championships were crowd-drawing events in the tournament.
The sparse crowds did not seem to disturb the Crimson on Friday night as they won their first match against Baltimore, 4-1.
But by Saturday morning, Harvard may well have been longing for its customary featured status. If it was a show the crowds wanted, the Crimson was going to provide it.
Most teams in the tournament represented cities. But on Saturday, Harvard was matched against an entire state--California. All the better for dramatic tension.
No.1 Bill Kaplan was the first to fold his Californian foe--a pudgy, greying racquetman who spent more energy bouncing jokes up to his cronies in the gallery than balls back to Kaplan. But Kaplan had the last laugh, stealing a quick three games from the Californian without ever removing his sweats.
Jeff Weigand, playing in the number three position, defeated a slightly more serious opponent, giving the Crimson a 2-0 lead.
But the Crimson had one enemy greater than the entire state of California--the flu. The Havens brothers, John in the number two position and Peter, ranked fourth, had valiantly tried to conquer illness since Thursday under intensive care in their native Philadelphia home.
But the incubation in the Ringe courts fell far short of Palm Springs in healing power. Both Havens' lost their matches to tie the bout 2-2.
The Crimson rushed over to court 12 where the drama of victory or defeat was to be enacted by their number five man Cass Sunstein and his much larger Californian opponent. Their match, tied two-all, had been a long one with nearly five-minutes between points.
The Californian had provided Sunstein with a running commentary on his own performance throughout the match. But he was not nearly as talkative as his teammates. As the Crimson reached the far-away court, the Californians were cheering wildly on every point.
The Crimson, not to be outdone, decided to encourage Sunstein in kind. And as his prodigees enjoyed their shouting bout, Coach Jack Barnaby signalled to Sunstein that the match depended on him.
Dick Button--and every other Olympic sportscaster for that matter--would have observed that "the pressure is terrific on this boy." The racquetmen traded points throughout that fifth game.
But, as more crowds gathered, the shouting competitors silenced. It was 14-13--Sunstein's advantage. The Californian served, they volleyed. Then a final Crimson cheer, and Sunstein thrust up his arms in victory. "I wanted to keep it exciting," Sunstein said after the match.
Barnaby was already thinking about the next day's match against Ontario. "We've got to go in there and get them before they get us," he said before the victory-blushed Sunstein and company. "I always say that you should get there fastest with the mostest."
But the Crimson was a bit too slow on Sunday morning, perhaps because of the excitement or their Holiday Inn food. Only Kaplan was able to beat his Ontario opponent, for a 1-4 defeat in the quarterfinals to the same team that eliminated Harvard here last year.
But the Crimson will worry about vengeance next year. This week Harvard will be looking towards their Ivy title bout with Penn at home next Saturday.