Coming off of the break—without having been at the Murr Center since early December—Harvard's favored men’s squash team could have underestimated its opponent.
But the No. 3 Crimson (7-0, 1-0 Ivy) did just the opposite, coming in with a competitive mentality that helped the team shut out No. 15 Bates (6-2, 1-0 NESCAC) in its third consecutive 9-0 finish and its sixth of the season.
“I thought it was a job well done by the team,” co-captain Zeke Scherl said. “It was all down to business. Everyone was focused, even if they were better than their opponent.”
The Harvard team, which arrived back on campus this week, quickly got back into playing form as the matches began, picking up seven 3-0 victories en route to a perfect finish.
Atop the Crimson, reigning national champion Ali Farag ousted his opponent in four games, dropping only one frame to the Bobcats’ Ahmed Abdel Khalek. The junior is undefeated this season—starting four times in the No. 1 spot—and holds a perfect 19-0 collegiate record.
“We always expect Farag to win, but he played [Khalek], and this kid is so good,” Harvard coach Mike Way said. “I thought his performance was a standout from the point of view that he didn’t have his best game on the day, and he had to fight. Whenever you have a player that’s fighting through, you’re delighted.”
Farag, who is from Egypt, impressed his teammates by overcoming tiredness from travel and remaining focused despite a tough opponent.
“I thought it was pretty amazing, given that Ali was still pretty jetlagged, for him to play such great squash… and dig in after losing one of the first few games,” Scherl added.
In the next six matches, Crimson players blanked their Bates opponents, 3-0, in each matchup. Victories by juniors Brandon McLaughlin, Gary Power, Nigel Koh, and Tommy Mullaney, sophomore Tyler Olsen, and Scherl handed Harvard an undefeated streak in the No. 2 through No. 7 slots.
“I thought the team was pretty well prepared coming off the break,” Scherl said. “We haven’t been practicing at school for a while, so I thought it was good that all the players managed to stay in good form for the match.”
Although the Crimson swept through the Bobcats’ lineup, each individual match was not as easy as the scoreboard suggested.
“Those 3-0 matches, at least half of them were very, very close and very, very hard fought,” Way said.
Playing in the No. 8 spot for the third time this season, co-captain Jason Michas maintained a perfect record for the season, defeating the Bobcats’ Jason Shrubb, 3-1. Rounding out the night for Harvard, No. 9 freshman Matt Roberts took down his opponent, Caran Arora, in a perfect 3-0 finish in which he gave up only seven points.
Now nine games into a 19 game regular season, all leading up to the CSA championships in late February, the Crimson’s toughest matchups have just begun. Before the break, Harvard took down No. 5 Rochester in its most competitive game of the season, and next weekend the Crimson travels to take on rivals Penn and Princeton.
“We may be at the halfway point on the calendar, but really the season—for those teams that are in contention—is just starting,” Way said. “It doesn’t feel like the halfway point at all. It feels like we are at the bottom of the main hill… the last bit of climb up Everest.”