Sure, they're underdogs. No doubt about it.
The thing is, the women of Harvard squash (1-0) love this stuff.
They thrive on it.
Tell them they won't win, and they will. Tell them it's a long shot, and they'll tell you the longer the better. Tell them they're ranked third in the league and they'll tell you about two years ago when they were ranked third and finished the season with the National Championship Title, or last year when they began from the same point and rallied to a very close second to the best team Princeton has fielded in years.
This year is no different. Under the leadership of tri-captains Mary Greenhill, Brooke Bailey and Carrie Cunningham, the 1991-92 Crimson top nine is determined to prove that no one can underestimate it and get away with it. Just one game against the aggressive Greenhill, with her canon serve, or the tenacious stunner, sophomore Jordanna Fraiberg, who has filled the number-one spot since she arrived at Harvard, is enough to get the point across--these folks don't take too kindly when told they can't do something.
"We love being underdogs," Bailey said. "Every year it looks like there's a big black hole out there and somehow we manage to reduce it with every game."
This year the traditional 'warmup' batch of pre-February games may be surprisingly close. With two top players, Cunningham and sophomore Heather Sullivan, away for the semester, the Crimson will have to come out fighting from the start. Evidence of the tough competition they'll have to face is last weekend's match against Trinity.
With the fourth-ranked Bantams fielding a stronger team than usual, the Crimson was only able to pull off a 5-4 victory. In order to beat the tops in the Ivies, they'll need to perform a little better. They'll need confidence and improved play coupled with the return of those key players to vie for the top spot in the league.
Missing in Action
The Trinity match did highlight the absence of Cunningham and Sullivan--without these women every player below the fourth seed is playing two spots too high. For players like sophomore Polly Butler, who has been "playing out of her mind" according to Bailey, and senior Mimi Smith, whom coach Steve Piltch warns "people should watch out for", this is a welcome challenge. But it is a tough jump for many of the recruits, like Libby Eynon, who was an alternate for the 1991 U.S. world team as well as a varsity soccer player for the Crimson. Eynon is a freshman who, having never competed at the intercollegiate level, could have a tough time jumping into an unexpectedly high position.
People to look out for this season:
* All-America Fraiberg, the team's first seed. She is in great shape. She was last year's runnerup at the NCAA Intercollegiate Championships and the work she's done on her short game may well make her unbeatable.
* Greenhill and All-America Vanya Desai. These veterans use their offensive skill to keep opponents on the run.
* Bailey. Her breath-taking determination to win has made her a winner in the past.
The teams three captains, Greenhill, Bailey and Cunningham personify the character of the Harvard squash team: graceful aggressiveness meshed with fierce determination and tenacity.
If coaches Piltch, Jack "Mr. Technician" Barnaby and Chris Brownell can guide the team through its inexperience woes, Princeton, Yale and everybody in between will take a back seat to the Crimson.