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There's a player on the Harvard men's squash team that sometimes goes unnoticed.
He's not the number-one player. He's not number-two, or even number-three.
He never gets center court.
He just plays the game, and plays it as well as he can every single time he takes the court.
His name is Farokh Pandole and he embodies the spirit that propelled the racquetmen (4-0) to their 1990-91 NCAA Championship Title.
To begin, Pandole is his own worst enemy, just like the Crimson squad--ranked first in the preseason polls--may well be this year. In the years that he'd been playing at Harvard, squash fans have seen him constantly criticize his game, ever trying to improve and perfect it.
Never satisfied, Pandole's attitude is one that any defending championship team, which could easily become complacent, should foster. It is that winning mentality of always striving that will get the Crimson through this season successfully.
Secondly, although Pandole is inconsistent, he is relentlessly persistent. In every game Pandole has every played he fights to the bitter end. From game one, the Crimson needs to espouse this philosophy and play this way.
And most importantly, Pandole's inconsistence makes him ever unsure, ever wondering. This sense of fear--a 'good fear'--pushes him to play a spectacular brand of squash. Spectacular squash could very well land the Crimson the National Title again this year.
Crimson Co-Captains Jonny Kaye and George Polsky are also assests to the team. Kaye, serving in his second year as a captain, knows how to lead the team to victory after victory after victory yet cultivate a sense of modesty.
"When it comes down to it, squash is an individual sport." Kaye said. "And when [an individual] goes into a game, there's no way he'll be complacent."
Polsky, with the laid-back approach to squash tempers Kaye's intensity with a more humorous perspective.
"We're experienced warriors," Polsky said laughing. "The unity and power of this team is best compared to that of a roving pack of juvenile male chakmas while in heat."
As one might guess, Polsky plays a different kind of game, but it is one which does the job.
A Seasoned Squad
Additional pluses are the 1990-91 U.S.S.R.A. Rookie of the Year Adam Ezra, and Ivy League Player of the Year, Jeremy Fraiberg. As winner of the Intercollegiate Individual Hardball Championships last year, Ezra is a formidable force on the Crimson team.
Fraiberg, as a seasoned senior and the team's number-one player, knows how to play tough. He demonstrated this last year against Ivy powerhouses Yale and Princeton, helping Harvard win the National Title.
Junior Marty Clark has one of the most graceful games of any intercollegiate player.
"Marty is a beautiful player," Polsky said. "In fact, Marty's just a beautiful person."
The sole frshman on the squad is Mike Masland. Masland, the brother of 1989-90 Co-Captain Jim Masland and 1990-91 Co-Captain and current assistant Coach John Masland, ought to earn respect on the court by virtue of his name alone.
All things considered, the team looks strong. The Crimson is an older and deeper team than traditional rivals Princeton, Yale and Trinity, possessing the greatest number of All-American and All-Ivy returners. It won both pre-sea-son matches against Princeton and Yale. The coaches all have experience defending championships.
Or is it?
"Something to worry about is that we're returning a lot of players," Piltch said. "People can fall into a trap of thinking they can win just by stepping on to the court."
Here, the team looks back to Pandole. In order to win, every player must think and play like Pandole, who never assumes he can win by reputation.
In every game, there is a thin line between winning and losing. If this year's team can do the Pandole thing, it will bring home another NCAA championship.
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