Men Play, Take Two
Meet the most dedicated team at Harvard. It's men's varsity squash, and it spent all Saturday afternoon on the courts while you were lounging in front of the TV.
Harvard demolished an obviously outmatched Cornell squad in nine straight games at 1 p.m. Saturday afternoon, then battled against Franklin and Marshall until after 9 p.m., eventually winning 8-1.
"We crushed Cornell pretty bad, but F&M is the toughest team we've played this year," said junior Michael Masland, Harvard's sixth-ranking player.
The final score masked persistent, tough challenges from F&M that prompted players on both sides to call this the most grueling match of their seasons so far.
"We looked at this as the toughest match of the year," said F&M freshman Tyler Hill.
Masland shared Hill's assessment.
"It's not like [the match against] Cornell, where we knew we'd win," Masland said. "We had to get psyched up for this one."
The Crimson faced both matches missing three important players, according to Head Coach Bill Doyle. Harvard's top-ranked player, Adrian Ezra '94, is currently in Bombay defending his Indian national championship, while two others were out with injuries.
The remaining team members made up for their absence by playing hard, defeating most of their Cornell opponents 3-0, and then wringing points out of F&M players who fought for every inch of court.
"They've been close, but Harvard has been pulling them out," said sophomore Adam Presher, F&M's eighth-ranked player.
The day ended with F&M's lone victory. J.P. Pandule defeated sophomore Tal Ben-Shachar, 3-2, after a tense contest that had the few courtside spectators cheering with every point.
Hill also won his game for F&M, but since he was the team's tenth-ranked player it did not count in the match score. Doyle praised his players for surviving a long, difficult tournament. Playing two matches in a day is unusual, he said, and if he had known the games against F&M would be so difficult he would have scheduled them for another time.
"But the guys stepped up," he added. "F&M didn't beat themselves. We went out and beat them."
And for Harvard's most dedicated team, the day wasn't over yet.
"Our team initiation dinner is scheduled for tonight," Masland said wearily after his games.