Making its first appearance at the Murr Center against a top-five nationally ranked squad since it dropped its match against No. 1 Trinity in the finals 2017 CSA National Championship, the No. 2 Harvard men’s squash team left no question as to who was the better unit on Thursday afternoon.
The Crimson (3-0, 1-0 Ivy) blanked No. 3 St. Lawrence University, 9-0, a team which had come out the victor in its two prior matches on the young 2017-2018 season against No. 7 Princeton and No. 5 Penn. The Saints (2-1) were not entirely outclassed in the clash, however, as St. Lawrence sophomore Karim Ibrahim came within a point of besting sophomore Timmy Brownell in a tight five-gamer at the second position. The team collectively mustered four more individual game victories in its eight other matches against Harvard.
“[The victory over St. Lawrence] was one of those wins where I couldn’t be more proud to be able to say that I’m captain of these boys,” co-captain David Ryan said. “Every single guy had impeccable focus throughout and urge to win was so much greater than St. Lawrence. We quickly went up 4-0 and then momentum switched a little bit, but it’s indicative of our team that the boys immediately bounced back in the next game and powered through for the win.”
Sporting a top-nine lineup that features three rookies in roster spots where steady seniors mainly played last year, the Crimson now has a much younger unit playing at the bottom of its ladder. Given that Harvard accrued a 51-9 record at the sixth through ninth spots in the lineup last season, the youthful grouping faces a difficult task in continuing to perform at such a high level.
Competing in the most meaningful action of their college squash careers thus far, fellow freshmen Adam Corcoran, Julien Gosset, and Samuel Scherl responded well to pressure. Playing at the sixth, seventh, and ninth positions, respectively, each member of the trio claimed victory against their St. Lawrence opponent. Corcoran and Scherl did so in three games. It took four games for Gosset to unseat Saints junior George Willis —14-12, 10-12, 11-8, 11-5—in a match that was back and forth in the early going.
“St Lawrence has a lot of experienced players who've been playing college squash for a couple of years, so it was good to see our freshmen step up to the challenge,” sophomore Sean Hughes said. “The 9-0 result shows how much strength they've added to the lineup and it's made the whole team excited for the coming season.”
The Crimson’s returning players each won their individual bouts, as well. In addition to Brownell’s 3-2 win, Ryan, sophomore Saadeldin Abouaish, and co-captain Madhav Dhingra were able to claim 3-1 victories against their competitors, while Hughes and senior Bradley Smith both triumphed in three. With his win, Ryan succeeded in getting revenge against Saints sophomore Belal Nawar. The Dublin, Ireland, native fell to Nawar in five sets the last time the two squads faced one another.
Brownell’s victory—11-5, 12-10, 7-11, 10-12, 12-10—was the closest of any Harvard team member. After pulling ahead early, 2-0, the Belmont, Mass., native nearly let the match slip away. But Brownell recovered down the stretch, stringing together a few strong points in a row after facing match point to put away Ibrahim. In his career thus far for the Crimson, the sophomore is 2-1 in five-gamers with his lone defeat coming to Trinity’s Michael Craig in last year’s regular season matchup.
“Karim [Ibrahim] is always a tough opponent so it was great to see Timmy [Brownell] pull the match out,” Hughes said. “It was neck and neck until the end of the match when Timmy [Brownell] was able rally to get a run of points and clinch the fifth.”
While it is obvious that such a strong showing against the third-ranked squad in the nation bodes well for Harvard going forward, the group won’t put too much weight on the victory just yet. According to Ryan, the squad doesn’t discount any of the challenges that lay ahead.
“We have to make sure not to get ahead of ourselves because despite [St. Lawrence] being number three in the country behind us, there are a lot of strong teams this year and many tougher ones than that,” Ryan said. “[The 9-0 victory] really shows how hard work pays off. We’ve been killing ourselves in practice everyday and now the lads see that all those stadium runs are paying off.”
—Staff writer Jackson M. Reynolds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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