The Harvard-Penn squash match was the kind of the match that proves that there are nine men on a team.
The Crimson racquetmen flew to Philadelphia on Saturday, plagued with illness and injury, knowing that each man would have to play the best match of his season for the squad to have any chance of defeating Penn for second place in the lvies Several did win, leading the squad to a narrow but wholly welcome victory, 5-4, over the Quakers.
Both Harvard and Penn had lost to Ivy champion Princeton in the last three weeks. But Penn had the home court advantage; and more importantly, fourth-ranked Fred Fisher had the flu, eighth-ranked Howland Murphy had graduated, and ninth-ranked Tim Morgan had broken his ankle.
The odd-ranked racquetmen played first; number one Pete Blasier, and fifth-and seventh-ranked Pete Havens and Steve Mead each lost in three games.
Dick Cashin, 6 ft, 4 in., at number three, faced Penn captain Sandy Groff, who is even taller than Cashin, in what had to be one of the more humorous matches in college squash history. The court seemed too small for the two big men, who both had trouble getting out of each other's way. Lets and collisions were abundant, but Cashin pressed on relentlessly, hitting cross-court to keep the gangly Groff out of the center.
His strategy paid off, as Cashin cut the giant down to size in four games. In the most dramatic game, he was able to steal ten straight points from Groff, streaking from 4-12 to 14-12.
But in a match in which there were heros and semi-heros, the hero of the first shift was Dave Evans, substituting for Morgan at nine, who had never played a varsity game in his life. Coach Jack Barnaby said. "He was like a kid on the football team who was called in for the first time at the Yale game. The pressure was terrific on the kid. But he didn't crack. He got tougher in the clutch against a guy who was just about even with him."
Evans was down two to one, but stormed back to win the next two games for the match. Barnaby explained, "Evans is not a great player but he proved Saturday that he is a real tough competitor."
As the even-ranked players stepped onto the courts, Harvard was down 2-3, Second-ranked Bill Kaplan was crushed in three games, but his defeat was avenged by a win from sixth-ranked Jeff Wiegand. Cass Sunstein, eight-ranked in the match, cleaned up his Penn opponent in a mere 20 minutes.
As fourth-ranked Fr. Fisher was warming up, he glanced up to his buddy Cashin in the gallery Cashin volemnly held up eight fingers to signify that the match was tied 4-4, Fisher looked uneasy, "God damn, you've got to be kidding." he said.
The flu stricken Fisher had not played all week. In fact, he had decided to play only that morning, despite having a temperature, He had not even warmed up, dressing only five minutes before his match.
Fisher said of his opponent, Glenn Coach. "He was a fighter and he wanted me to fight. But I didn't and I outfoxed him."
Barnaby and Fisher had concocted a plan: Fisher would hit the ball softly, outsmart his opponent and use soft drop shots as his kill shots. But even when he lost the first game, Fisher did not lose his cool.
After every point, Fisher would lean against the wall, fix his shoes, below on his hands, do whatever he could to gather strength for the next rally. After he won the next two games. Fisher went out to speak with his coach.
"I hadn't been playing well," Fisher explained later. "I was just thinking about how I could make it. But Barnaby's such a foxy guy. When I got out, he said to me, 'Ya know what I've been hearing? This guy's sick too.' So I forgot how lousy I was feeling." Coach, the Penn player, had been complaining of shin splints all season.
But Penn's man did not look pained in that fourth game, at least not by his shins anyway, Fisher played what one squad member called "the most savvy squash I've ever seen." Using high lobs and non-percentage volley drops, Fisher out-smarted Coach in that game 15-9, for the match, the team victory, and second place in the Ivy League. "It was a colossal clutch performance," Barnaby said.
Barnaby said of his team's victory that he was "as happy as a clam in the mud in low tide. It was really a good win."