For the 18 members of the Harvard men’s squash team, this season was nothing more than a rollercoaster ride.
“Up and down,” junior Frank Cohen said. “We had a couple really good wins and had a couple very disappointing losses.”
The Crimson began the season ranked No. 4 in the nation. Living up to expectations, the team started off with three straight home wins in late November, including a sound 9-0 crushing of then-No. 14 Brown and an 8-1 win over No. 10 Williams.
With junior Colin West outscoring his three opponents 81-2 and crucial wins from the No. 5 and No. 9 spots, Harvard also grabbed a close 5-4 victory over No. 9 Dartmouth.
The opposition only became more competitive as the team then faced No. 6 Cornell in Ithaca, receiving its first loss of the season at the hands of the Big Red, 3-6.
“Our match against Cornell during the season, that was very disappointing to lose to those guys,” Cohen said. “They had never beaten us before.”
Despite the letdown, Harvard bounced back with a 7-2 win that same day against No. 8 Western Ontario and followed it up with another close 5-4 win against a No. 5-ranked Rochester team a week later.
“In the Rochester match, Colin [West] sort of expected a win, [senior Niko Hrdy] played a higher ranking, and [senior Verdi DiSesa] just had the match of his life to pull out a win for the team,” Cohen said. “We were the underdogs, so Rochester thought they could beat us, but those three guys just put it out of their minds.”
The rest of the regular season consisted of two defeats by No. 1 Trinity and No. 2 Princeton.
Harvard managed a close 5-4 win against Penn, but a tough 5-4 loss to Yale brought the team down a spot in the national poll.
Going into the College Squash Association tournament, the main goal was to finish the year on a strong note, especially for the outgoing seniors.
“There was a very strong senior presence so a lot of us really wanted to have a good season for them,” Cohen said. “We were all thinking that we would try to give them the season they deserve.”
“It was hard to go from our freshman year when we won the Ivy League title [to this],” Hrdy added. “We lost to Cornell for the first time ever, and we lost to Rochester for the first time ever, so it was kind of a disappointment to finish off the senior season like this. But I think that we worked harder than the previous oh-so-talented teams.”
The Crimson continued its ride of a season into the CSA tournament with a 5-4 win against Cornell.
But two losses against Trinity and Rochester cost the team any form of a top-three medal.
“Next year is going to be interesting,” Hrdy said. “I think the team has great leadership. Outside of that, I think kids are going to need to step up, especially with [team captain] Verdi and I leaving the No. 2 and 3 spots.”
But Harvard has reason to be optimistic, with a handful of new recruits coming in and seven juniors stepping up to fill the leadership position that this year’s senior class will leave behind.
“We are going to stress a lot of fitness, we are going to do a lot of match play, mental preparation,” said Cohen, who will be next year’s co-captain alongside West. “We are going to be ready for our season next year.”
—Staff writer Alex Sopko can be reached at email@example.com.