Although the No. 5 Harvard men’s squash team came out on top of the tightly contested Ivy League scrimmages two weeks ago, the Crimson remains largely untested in regular season play, having claimed a 9-0 victory over No. 10 Williams in its lone match of the year so far.
But Wednesday, all of that might change, as Harvard begins Ivy League play with a trip to Hanover, N.H., to take on No. 7 Dartmouth (3-0) and No. 14 Middlebury (0-2).
“We saw Dartmouth at Ivy scrimmages, and they’re a tough team, especially in the top four,” said freshman Nick Hopcroft, who played at the No. 4 spot in the Crimson’s first match. “There should be tough matches, but we’re confident we can pull off another victory. We’re hoping to pick up where we left off against Williams.”
Harvard will play six matches this weekend after it returns from its journey up north.
But the matchup against the Big Green will likely be the toughest competition Harvard sees until January, when the season resumes after a short recess that begins during reading period.
“I think this is a great way to hit the ground running with the season,” sophomore Tommy Mullaney said. “We have a pretty intense string of matches come January and February. [This weekend] is a good way for us to get used to the rapid-fire match play we’re going to see later in the season.”
At last year’s CSA Team Championships, Ivy League schools claimed five of the top seven rankings in the nation. And along with Trinity and Rochester—which placed first and third, respectively, at last year’s team championships—Ancient Eight teams look poised to claim many of the top spots again this year.
“The Ivy League is definitely very strong,” freshman Julian Kirby said. “Every individual match is going to be tough [against Ancient Eight teams]. No one is going to be blowing anyone off the court. We need to make sure we’re fit enough to last through long matches and win them, and have that mental edge to come home with the last few points.”
Dartmouth opened the 2011-12 campaign with a solid performance at this year’s Ivy Scrimmages, earning wins against Columbia and No. 9 Penn after dropping its opening round matchup against No. 6 Cornell, 7-2.
“Dartmouth looked pretty strong at [the scrimmages],” Kirby said. “They gave Cornell a pretty decent match. … We feel like we’re the better team, but we’re not complacent.”
Harvard had success against the Big Green last year, taking down its Ancient Eight foe by a score of 7-2 in regular-season play.
All seven of the Crimson’s individual victories last year came from underclassmen, led by then-freshmen Gary Power and Brandon McLaughlin.
The duo took down its Dartmouth opponents, 3-2, and, 3-0, respectively. Sophomore Nigel Koh, who is also a Crimson business editor, and juniors Alexander Ma and Zeke Scherl also swept their matches last year. The two teams met again in the consolation round of the CSA Team Championships, and Harvard came out on top, this time earning eight individual victories.
Dartmouth is undefeated in regular season play thus far. The Big Green earned its third straight victory of the young season, 5-4, in a tightly contested matchup against No. 8 Franklin and Marshall.
The Panthers dropped their first two contests of the year, but should not be taken lightly. Middlebury opens the season with one of the toughest schedules in the nation, taking on three top-10 teams—the Big Red, No. 3 Princeton, and the Crimson—in its first three matches of the year.
“Middlebury is ranked lower [than Dartmouth], and obviously we’re hoping to beat them as well,” Hopcroft said. “We’re pretty confident. … We just need to make sure we concentrate the whole match and get the job done. We can’t go into it half-hearted.”
This weekend, Harvard will close out a hectic week of eight matches in just five days, with contests against NYU, Amherst, MIT, Boston College, Northeastern, and Boston University.
“[This weekend] will be a great chance for the guys who aren’t on the team all the time to get a game in,” Hopcroft said. “And the more matches you play, the better, really. It’s going to be a busy weekend, and we’ll be tired, but it’s good for us [and] good preparation for the [rest of the] season.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.