The Harvard men's squash team yesterday moved one step closer to successfully defending its national championship. Dartmouth 0 Harvard 9
Coming off an emotional victory over arch-rival Princeton, the Crimson (8-0 dual, 5-0 Ivy) avoided a letdown by destroying Dartmouth, 9-0, yesterday at Hemenway Gym. Harvard clinced at least a share of its fifth straight Ivy League title and can clinch the crown outright with a win against Yale.
How bad was the carnage?
The match was so one-sided that the severely outgunned won only one game on the afternoon and were often caught flat-footed by the top-ranked team in the nation.
Second-seeded freshman Daniel Ezra and fourth-seeded senior Mike Masland set the tone early. Ezra's powerful forehand and Masland's precision hitting led to easy 3-0 victories.
Ezra, who cruised to a 15-10, 15-4, 15-3 win, says the team was confident at the start of the match and dominated throughout.
"We knew that it we could beat Princeton, we would beat Dartmouth," Ezra said. "No one was pushed."
Indeed, top-seeded junior Tal Ben-Shachar, freshmen Rishaad Bilimoria and Jeff Blumberg, sophomore Andy Walter and juniors Ted Bruenner and Mike Oh also won 3-0 matches.
The squad has rarely been pushed this season. Harvard won the National Five-Man Team Championships in Atlanta, and it defeated the number-two team in the country, Princeton, 6-3.
"[Harvard is successful because of an] ability to pick themselves up, to train exceptionally well, to dedicate themselves and to perform very well at each and every match," Assistant Coach Roy McNamara said. "They're a very tight-knit group, which is a huge asset for the defending champions of a national title."
But Co-captain Ben-Shachar cautioned against dwelling on past successes.
"Just because the hardest match of the season is over doesn't mean that the season is over," he said. "Our training now is geared to peak in three weeks for national championship weekend."
"We were in peak form this weekend [against Princeton] for sure, and we need to peak again," he added.
Head Coach Bill Doyle said that for the team to reach peak form, the challenge is "to keep everyone healthy and sharp."
So how does the team keep itself in top shape?
Obviously, matches against far weaker competitors like Dartmouth don't suffice.
Rather, the Crimson relies on challenge matches between the players to stay on top of their games. For example, Ezra and Ben-Shachar will play a challenge match today for the number-one seed.
The next intercollegiate match for Harvard is at home against number four Trinity this Saturday afternoon at 3.
The Crimson, as always, is confident that it will win.
"[Trinity] is actually speculating that they might beat us," Ezra said, "but I don't think that holds any water."