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The Harvard men's and women's squash teams started their seasons with predictably smashing results at Brown on Friday. The women's team beat the Bears, 7-2, while the men's team rode roughshod over its Bear counterparts, 9-0.
Women Rejoice, More or Less
For the women, the only surprise was that Brown won two games. Don't get it wrong--it's not as if the four-time defending national champion Crimson ever entertained serious doubts about losing. It's just that Brown is not considered the cream of the Ivy League, and after the Crimson decimated its Ivy competition in a scrimmage two weekends ago, the smart money was on a 9-0 Harvard sweep.
Nevertheless, an easy but not utterly dominating win is still a win is still a win, Led by No. 1 seed and co-captain Blair Clark, No.2 seed sophomore Ivy Pochoda, No. 3 seed freshmen Brook Herlihy, No. 4 seed and co-captain Erin Dockery, and No. 5 seed freshman Stephanie Teatord--all victorious in their matches--Harvard still cruised to victory.
"This was a good opener for us," pochoda said. "It was harder than we expected. They put up a much stronger fight than they did at the scrimmage (two weekends before). We know we really need to get prepared. We can't take anything lightly. We can be given a match by most teams."
Only freshman Lindsay Wilber, playing in the No. 6 spot, and sophomore Rachel Barenbaum, playing in the No. 9 slot, lost. But even in defeat the Crimson's strength is betrayed, as the youth of this squad should only get better with experience. Barenbaum is a sophomore, and Wilber is joined by three other freshman who played in the top nine--Herlihy, Teaford and Leah Ramella.
"We gained so much depth this year," Pochoda said, responding to a question about losing last year's national champion Libby Eynon '95 to graduation. "Depth is really more important than any one player. We have four freshman in the top nine."
Harvard next plays Bowdoin in two weeks.
The Men Sweat, Albeit Only a Few Drops
The Harvard men's squash team steamrolled through Brown 9-0, losing only one game in its nine matches. The Crimson only lost one of its top nine players to graduation, Mike Maslan '95, while gaining Israeli national champion Joel Kirsch, who played in the No. 3 spot against Brown.
Maslan usually played in the fifth or sixth spot, and so it looks like the team should be stronger than ever--if that statement is intelligible about a five-time defending national champion. But back to the win.
"It was a good start to the season," senior Crimson editor and defending national individual champion Tal Ben-Shachar said. "Everyone played tough. We were extremely resilient."
Harvard's main competition in the Ivy League figures to come from Princeton, whom Harvard beat 7-2 in the finals of last week's Ivy League scrimmage. Since Harvard doesn't play princeton in the near future; scores other than 9-0 and 8-1 will be rare if not non-existent.
Harvard's dominance is typified by its top three players: Ben-Shachar, sophomore Daniel Ezra and second-semester sophomore Kirsch. Ezra actually played in the top spot against Brown, while Ben Shachar who beat Ezra to win last year's individual national championship--played in the No. 2 slot. The order of the spots is determined by intra-team challenge matches.
"The top three will probably switch around (spots) a lot this year," Ben-Shachar said. "The whole team will probably switch around. We have a lot of depth. We've gotten a lot stronger. We only lost Mike Maslan, who played five or six, and we gained a potential number one (Kirsch)."
Kirsch, who easily won his first North American collegiate match, summed up his team's situation.
"Our team has high expectations," he said. "We hope to live up to them. Again."
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