Surprise! Men and women's Squash Both Sweep Weekend

Perhaps Harvard may not be a sports powerhouse on the scale of Nebraska or Florida State, but for the time being there is at least one sport in which the Crimson are unequivocally tops: men's squash.

If there was any doubt about the squad's number-one national ranking entering last weekend, it was convincingly erased as the Crimson (8-0 dual; 4-0 Ivy) disposed of Ivy League rivals Penn and second-ranked Princeton on the road. Harvard  9 Penn  0 Harvard  6 Princeton  3

Although the Crimson did not overlook the sixth-ranked Quakers, winning 9-0, the match was little more than a warmup for Sunday's battle. Junior co-captain Tal Ben-Shachar admits the team "had prepared for the Princeton match over the whole season."

Despite its higher ranking, the Crimson knew well in advance that the Princeton match would be a mental as well as physical challenge.

"We expected a zoo," said freshman Daniel Ezra, who won his match playing as the second seed. "We've had some real battles there before."

The match was close throughout, and, according to the players, the atmosphere was appropriately tense and emotional.


"The crowd was hostile," said Ben Shachar, who played as the first seed and won his match. "A lot of people were from eating clubs, and some were drunk. They were talking to us between points, which you don't do in squash."

"[The crowd] was shouting in between points and cheering when we hit the tin," agreed Ezra. "It bothered us and made us lose our concentration."

Under such intimidating conditions, it would have been easy for the Crimson to fold. But instead it regrouped, showing the toughness and poise of which national champions are made.

"We just shut everything out," Ben shachar said. "Our coach prepared us for it, and we were ready for it. In fact, it made us even more determined.

"We showed the willpower--everyone wanted to win. All the matches were close, but we won when it really mattered."

Junior co-captain Joe Kaplan played especially well in winning his match in the ninth spot.

The team is now focusing its attention on the National Team Championships, also at Princeton, at the end of February. If Harvard maintains its perfect record, it should be the top-ranked team in the tournament.

As a result of its triumph, the Crimson will only have to meet one of its top two rivals, Princeton and Western Ontario, in the tournament.

"It was the most awesome feeling," Ezra said of the victory. "When you're so psyched up and there are so many people watching, the adrenaline really starts going."

"The Princeton players had been talking a lot," Ben-Shachar said. "But the results speak for themselves."