Harvard vs. Yale: Battle of the Bulge Set for Tonight
If you happen to walk past Hemenway Gym tonight around 7 p.m., don't be surpised to see tanks, barracks and artillery.
The Harvard men's squash team will be facing Yale for a share of the Ivy League and regular-season national championships.
"It's going to be a war," Yale Coach Dave Talbott said. "It'll be 5-4 either way. It's going to be our toughest match of the year. We haven't beaten Harvard in 27 years."
A war? Is that true, Harvard Coach Dave Fish?
"We're going to fight like the Spartans used to," said Fish, who is coaching his last dual match. "We're either going to come home carrying our shields or be on top of them."
Hold on a second. A war?
"It's going to be a pit-bull fight," Harvard Assistant Coach John Anz said. "Hopefully, we will come out a little less bloody. There's not going to be a quick knockout. It's going to be a split decision. It's a fight to the death, there is no in-between."
Yale (11-0 overall, 3-0 Ivy) has already clinched a share of the Ivy and the regular-season national titles, but the Crimson (8-1, 2-1) can cause a three-way tie with Yale and Princeton if it defeats the Elis tonight.
For the first time in the history of collegiate squash, there are two separate nine--man national championships. One is the regular-season title, which is based on a team's record during the year. The second title will be determined by the Intercollegiate Squash Association (ISA) post-season tournament, held in New Haven this weekend.
But for now, the war.
"We're all looking forward to it," Yale's Scott Farber said. "It's definitely one of the biggest matches of the year. We're approaching the match as if we didn't beat Princeton."
A real battle at Hemenway?
"Well it all comes down to this," sophomore George Polsky said. "We didn't come home from Princeton with enough Tiger pelt, so we'll have to settle for some Bulldog hide. It's going to be a dogfight out there, and I'd like to look at it as if it were the master teaching his dog. And of course, we all know who's going to be learning the tricks. In a nutshell, we're so psyched. We're foaming at the mouth."
Many counted the Crimson out of the quest for the regular-season title when it lost to Princeton, 8-1, February 4. But Harvard has won its last five matches, including victories over Penn and Franklin and Marshall.
"Harvard is still a better team than Princeton," Talbott said. "Harvard had several guys coming off injuries when they played Princeton. We know how good the Harvard team is."
And the Crimson wants to show Yale just that.
"We have a chance to prove what kind of team we have," Harvard Co-Captain Doug Lifford said. "The Princeton match was a fluke. It's definitely going to be a dogfight. We're going to have to play our best to beat them."
Yale is the only undefeated team in the country. The Elis are heavily favored to defeat Harvard after routing Princeton, 7-2, February 11.
"We're all excited about the match," said Jon Musto, Yale's number-one player. "This is really the big match for us. The Princeton match was nice, but we don't care that much about Princeton. We want to beat Harvard."
It's been a long time since the Elis have defeated Harvard. Actually, they haven't beaten the Crimson since John F. Kennedy '40 was President in 1961.
But Yale is the only collegiate team to shut out the Crimson in Harvard's 64-year history. Yale recorded a 9-0 decision in 1947.
What a Crowd
Listen to the warning, Harvard fans: Yale is bringing several busloads of its own supporters. The Elis are hoping to take away the Crimson's home court advantage.
"They're bringing a lot of fans up here," Lifford said. "Hopefully, our fans will come out in full force. We want to make sure it's still a home match for us. They're in our house now. We're going to take a rolled-up newspaper to them."
Yale is favored to win the match, but once the players take the court, odds and pre-game predictions take a back seat.
The top four positions should provide a lot of sparks. The matches will pit last year's Ivy Rookie of the Year Musto against 1987 Ivy Rookie of the Year Jon Bernheimer at the number-one slot, Cyrus Mehta and Lifford at two, Tim Goodale and Farokh Pandole at three, and Tom Clayton and Johnny Kaye at four.
If Harvard isn't successful at the top, then the Crimson will need strong matches from the lower part of its lineup. Harvard's lineup from five to nine includes Jeremy Fraiberg, Co-Captain Frank Huerta. Seth Handy, Jon Masland, and George Polsky.
"They're tough from one to nine--especially from five to nine," Lifford said.
Thirteen years ago, Jack Barnaby's last match as Harvard's coach was against a heavily favored Princeton squad. But Harvard pulled off one of the biggest upsets in collegiate squash, capturing a 6-3 victory.
"This is our last dual match for Coach Fish," sophomore Jon Masland said. "He's a great coach. He knows so much about the game. We just don't want to win it for ourselves, but we want to win it for him."
Fish finds himself in the same position that Barnaby was in 13 years ago. It's a different era and a different team, but it's the same situation.
Just another war.