There's only one word to describe this year's varsity squash team. The word is awesome. Sporting two-time NCAA singles champ Mike Desaulniers and three-time All-Ivy leaguer John Havens, the racquetmen travel to Amherst today for the season opener with a 97-9 record since 1956 and ten returning lettermen determined to keep up the good work.
Desaulniers will, of course, be playing numero uno for the Crimson. Although recovering from a broken foot that kept him out of tournament action for over a month, he is still the quickest thing this side of the equator when it comes to playing squash.
Last year, mighty Mike captured the U.S. singles, Canadian singles and Canadian national championships, along with the NCAA title and an All-Ivy berth. In fact, the junior from Montreal did not lose a game (that's right, not a one) in amateur competition last season.
The number two spot belongs to captain John Havens. Although Havens had a difficult time adjusting to a change in the texture of the squash ball last season, he has been one of the top college players in the country since his freshman year.
As Crimson mentor Dave Fish explained yesterday, the new kind of ball is softer and threw Havens off his usually devastating power-hitting playing style. "Havens had some tough losses last year as a result," Fish added, "but I think he's back on his game this time around."
Lots of Ivy
If Havens is indeed back on his game he has a good shot at becoming the first Harvard player to be selected to the All-Ivy team for four consecutive seasons. "Havens should do it," teammate John Heller noted yesterday, "because Havens last year and Havens this year are a different animal."
Third-year man John Stubbs has a firm grip on the number three spot behind Havens. The former Milton Academy stand-out saw a lot of action last season at five and has moved up two rungs on the ladder this year due to the departure of seniors Mark Panarese and Ned Bacon.
After taking last year off, George Bell is back to play number four for the racquetmen. Bell made the squad as a freshman two years ago and should be a strong follow-up behind Stubbs.
One of the best players on the team in terms of raw talent is sophomore Mitch Reese, who ably handled the sixth position in his freshman year, and is slated to play number five today. "Mitch is an extremely well-skilled player and I expect to see a lot of improvement in his game this year," coach Fish said yesterday.
Last year's number eight man Chuck Eliot will play number six today, while another returning letterman, John Fishwick, will square off with Amherst's number seven man.
Fishwick did not play much for the Crimson last season, but has improved tremendously since then. "John was just so close to it last year," Fish noted, "and he could be a real solid player this year."
Fish, in his third season as Harvard mentor, hasn't decided who to start at eighth, ninth and tenth slots, but points to Joe Somers, freshman Chip Robie and veteran Jeff Secrest as likely candidates.
The racquetmen don't expect much of a contest from the Amherst nine, whom they soundly squashed last season, 8-1. Amherst does, however, have a powerful number one player in Paul Heuchling, who knocked off Havens last year.
"I'd like to play Heuchling again," Havens said yesterday, "but it looks like I'm not going to get the chance if he's playing at one."
The squad's major goal this season is, as always, to knock off Princeton and thus capture the Ivy League title. Although the Crimson shocked the Tigers at Hemenway three years ago, Princeton came back the following year and humiliated the Crimson last winter, 8-1. Fish and his racquetmen hope to change all that when they travel to the Tiger courts on February 3.