After months of playing, training, and traveling, the Ivy League championship came down to one night for the Harvard men’s squash team.
“This [was] it for the team,” senior captain Will Broadbent said. “We were all pretty fired up.”
The highly-anticipated matchup between Harvard and Yale turned out to be less dramatic than expected. Harvard (7-3, 5-1 Ivy) won the match 6-3 in New Haven, taking the top five pairings and a share of the Ivy League title with Yale (12-3, 5-1) and Princeton. The victory made it three straight Ivy crowns for the Crimson.
This Harvard-Yale clash was shaping up to be more than the typical meeting between these two rivals. Entering the contest, Yale held a spotless 5-0 league record, with Harvard trailing one game behind in second place at 4-1.
The two teams stayed close at the start of the match, with Yale holding a 3-2 advantage through five as the Crimson dropped matches at the sixth, eighth and ninth spots.
“At the beginning, we really didn’t know who was going to come out with the lead,” Broadbent said.
Down the stretch, however, Crimson combined close, hard-fought victories at the fourth and fifth spots with easy victories at the top. In the end, the Crimson took five of nine matches 3-0. On paper, the duel at the No. 1 spot shaped up to be a good one, pairing Harvard’s Sidharth Suchde against Yale’s Julian Illingsworth, both two-time all-America selections. However, the match turned out to be lopsided in favor of Harvard; Suchde dispatched Illingsworth quickly. Suchde, capitalizing on what appeared to be an injured hamstring for Illingsworth, worked his opponent all over the court.
“With his injury, Julian [Illingsworth] was really no match for Sid [Suchde],” Broadbent said. “With strength and quickness, Sid kind of rolled over him.”
The other high-seeded matches followed suit, with Broadbent and junior Ilan Oren sweeping 3-0 at numbers two and three, respectively.
“It was my last collegiate match,” Broadbent said. “So I was pretty fired up.”
As it turned out, it was the fourth-seeded match, which paired the Crimson’s Jason de Lierre with the Bulldogs’ Moshe Safarty, that wound up being the turning point for Harvard. Down 2-0, it looked as though de Lierre would be unable to match his opponent’s intensity and pull out the win in the fourth slot. As time went on, though, de Lierre grew more confident and Safarty appeared to tire. Noticing his opponent’s fatigue, de Lierre forced some key errors from Safarty down the stretch, pulling out the 3-2 win.
“My play got better the longer I was on the court,” de Lierre said. “I knew that if I could take it another game [after being down 2-0], I’d be able to win.”
The situation proved familiar territory for de Lierre. Last week in his match against Princeton, he overcame a 2-0 game deficit to take the match, 3-2.
“If there was a turning point, that was it,” Broadbent added. “Once Jason won, we knew we had the match in our hands.”