Sometimes playing without a team’s most established players can be a good thing.
It opens the way for inexperienced underclassmen to get their feet wet.
“If they have no experience, they don’t know what to expect,” junior intercollegiate No. 10 Michael Blumberg said.
On Friday, the No. 3 Harvard men’s squash team saw its freshmen compete in an official match for the first time as sophomore intercollegiate No. 6 Will Broadbent and captain No. 21 Ziggy Whitman watched from the sidelines. The Crimson (1-0, 1-0 Ivy) opened its season by overwhelming No. 9 Brown (0-1, 0-1 Ivy) 9-0. Harvard did not drop a single game throughout the contest.
As the score indicated, the Crimson players took little time to shake off the rust of the offseason as well as the season-opening jitters.
“I got into a good rhythm by the second and third games,” Blumberg said, who won 9-2, 9-4, 9-6 at No. 3. “It felt really good to be playing on the circuit again.”
Although Harvard is now ranked third, it began the season at number two partially because of its freshmen talent pool.
Six of the team’s 15 members are freshmen, including four who saw action in Friday’s top nine matches.
They were supposed to be good, but not exactly this dominant off the bat, stepping up to fill in for Broadbent and Whitman.
The two veterans decided not to play so they could rest their injuries. Broadbent’s knee has been bothering him recently while Whitman’s back kept him off the court.
“They didn’t want to push it too hard,” Blumberg said. “Plus, they wanted to let some of the other guys get experience.”
But for the rest of the Crimson, part of their motivation this past weekend came from being able to start because of the injuries to the two seniors.
“We couldn’t play quite a few of our top-string players due to injuries,” freshman Siddharth Suchde said. “I guess all the players were really geared up to play their best squash and on Friday that’s exactly what happened.”
Harvard sits near the top of the College Squash Association’s list of Freshmen to Watch, with five players being tabbed. Ilan Oren, Jason De Lierre, Mihir Sheth and Garnett Booth join Suchde on the list. Oren missed Friday’s match with a foot injury.
But Suchde doesn’t just lead the freshman. He also played in the number one spot for the Crimson this past weekend, dropping only seven points in beating senior Brad Corona 9-0, 9-5, 9-2.
Coming from India after attending high school in Scotland, Suchde has been enjoying the steep learning curve of playing in the number one or two spot for the Crimson.
“It’s really exciting to play for the Harvard squash team,” Suchde said. “I’ve improved a lot in the short time I’ve been here thanks to all my teammates and coaches.”
As the season continues, Suchde will face tougher competition and find out where he ranks among the best squash players in the country.
Harvard’s next match will be on Dec. 6 against No. 7 Cornell at home.