There's really no doubt about it. This winter the Crimson racquetmen should be the best collegiate squash team in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Ivy Leagur, the country, the world and the universe. Would you believe five out of six?
The reason for this is a simple matter of numbers, specifically seven and one. Seven is for the returning lettermen who were on last year's national championship squad, and one is for freshman Mike Desaulniers, who will be playing in that position for this year's team.
Usually, it is rare that a freshman even cracks the varsity line-up, but then again, it is even rare to have a freshman who a) is ranked in the top five in Canada and who b) recently defeated Mo Kahn, the world's top-ranked player not so long ago.
The addition of Desaulniers to a team that was already overloaded before he ever sent in his fall tuition means that Bill Kaplan and John Havens, one and two a year ago, will now be playing at two and three, which is sort of like having a Rockefeller win the lottery.
This reshuffling of the line-up could very well mean undefeated individual seasons for Harvard's three best players. Take Havens, for instance--he breezed by everybody as a freshman in the second slot last year; having him play third is basically unfair.
Go Big Blue
And that's just the beginning. The middle of the ladder, starring juniors Mark Panarese and Ned Bacon at four and five and seniors Ken Ehrlich and Scott Mead at six and seven, is sturdier than Widener. It's also fairly chummy, as three of the four--Panarese being the exception--join Kaplan as graduates of the same national high school.
Sophomore Robert Blake will be playing number eight in between screenings of Baretta, while either George Bell or Clancy Nixon will round out the ladder at nine.
The beneficiary of all this talent is new coach Dave Fish, who succeeds Jack Barnaby. Barnaby was not only the most respected and winningest squash coach of all time, but rumor has it that he invented the game itself. Otherwise, Fish is starting from scratch.
As Fish admitted, the Crimson's biggest headache could be that as favorites, everybody else will be trying to squash them where it hurts. And then there are other minor matters, like the fact that the two toughest matches, against Princeton and Penn, are on the road, away from the more than friendly confines of Hemenway Gym.
Snowballs in Hades
With such problems, Fish might even have to show up once in a while--like perhaps this afternoon, when the season opens against Harvard's opponents, who have the same chance of beating the Crimson as one does of eating a Joe's pizza and living to tell about it. That's no chance at all.
The question will not be how many matches Harvard loses this winter, but how many games. Yes, the racquetmen are that good, and if you don't believe it, why not come to Hemenway at 3 p.m. this afternoon when the season gets underway.