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The Harvard squash team opened its season last Saturday afternoon, way up north in Canada, dropping a tight contest to the reigning National Intercollegiate champs, the University of Western Ontario, 4-5.
Sophomore Mike Desaulniers, the nation's top-ranking college player and Harvard's number-one seed for the second year in a row, bettered opponent Mohtadi in three close games, 16-13, 15-12, 15-11. The Crimson's Mark Panarese, playing in the second slot instead of ailing John Havens, lost to Lennard, 1-3. Ned Bacon grabbed the third match from Canadian Guyatt, 3-1.
The men of Harvard failed to score in the fourth through the seventh positions, as John Stubbs, Clancy Nixon, Mitch Reese, and Clark Bain all came up short against strong players from Ontario. Chuck Elliot and Jeff Seacrest, seeded eight and ninth respectively, accounted for two more points to round out the Crimson scoring.
Coach Dave Fish described the Western Ontario team as the best in Canada (one of the strongest countries for squash in the world), with the top talent from all over that country. "They've even got some Americans up there now," he added.
"Last year they really mopped up at the nationals, so we went up there expecting the worse," Fish said. "I was incredibly surprised at how close it was. It came down to the third game of the last match. We didn't happen to win, but the match overall was as close as it can come," he added.
Manager Whit Ford said that the Canadians were "a half a foot taller than us. That makes it easier to reach from side to side and means we had to play a craftier game," he explained.
Young But Willing
With only five players returning from last year's team, which was ranked third in the country, the Crimson squad is young and somewhat inexperienced. Freshmen Mitch Reese and Peter Sidman are two of the newcomers who are trying to fill the empty spots.
Sidman says that being a freshman on the varsity team is somtimes pretty rough. "The first thing that happens is your whole game gets dissected by coach Fish. It's a big change from high school where you never get any real coaching."
A New Ball Game
This year a new, softer ball has been adopted which is more like the ball used in international competition. The softer ball puts more of a premium on stamina, and the squash team is experimenting with different ways of practicing. "To keep up you must be able to run forever as well as to play intelligently," Fish said.
With the tough match against Western Ontario behind them, the racquetmen don't face any really stiff competition until well into reading period, when they face Princeton and Penn in back-to-back home contests. "Everyone is gunning for Princeton and Penn since the Ivy League championship is basically the same as the national team title," John Stubbs said.
Last year the highly vaunted Crimson lost a disappointing match to Princeton in front of 1000 very partial fans in New Jersey, losing the Ivy and national titles as well. Fish hopes that this year Harvard fans will provide an "awesome" home court advantage when the Tigers invade Hemenway.
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