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Harvard men's squash suffered a letdown Wednesday night against Dartmouth when it won its match by 7-2. For most teams a victory is just that, a victory. Then why was the 7-2 victory a letdown?
As sophomore Daniel Ezra said, "First, it's important to get the job done, then you worry about how you got it done."
With Harvard owning a 8-0 (5-0 Ivy) record so far and coming off a weekend where the team most likely secured the national title, victories are taken for granted and the "how you got it done" becomes the focus.
Although Ezra, the team's second seeded player, remains on the injured list due to tendon and ligament damage in his playing wrist, the team proved its depth on Sunday, by beating arch rival Princeton 6-3. Ezra's absence made every player shift up one seed.
"The team turned out a great performance, "Ezra said.
Senior co-captain Tal Ben-Shachar, who is also a Crimson editor, said, "Ezra is a pillar on the team. Without him the team is more vulnerable, which puts more pressure on individual players."
Against Dartmouth the sixth seeded player also did not play, forcing additional upward shifts. Despite players competing at higher seeds, the victory against Dartmouth should have been a bit easier.
After a 6-3 victory against a much stronger team than Dartmouth, it seems natural to expect a much more lopsided score for the Wednesday night matchup.
"People on the team were tired from Sunday's matches, not so much physically as mentally," Ben-Shachar said. "It was an emotionally draining weekend." He believes the slight lack of focus against Dartmouth was a direct result of the excitement and climax on Sunday and the transition of going back to less exciting matches.
Ezra attributes the lack of focus to the transition as well. "We came off a bit high from Princeton and we let it get to our heads," he said.
A bit more optimistic about the outcome against Dartmouth, sophomore Joel Kirsch credits the less than perfect score to physical as well as emotional transition. "After the long drive up to Dartmouth, it's not that easy to get on court. Also, Dartmouth has wide courts (as opposed to the narrow hardball Harvard courts) and that makes a big difference."
Whatever the reason for the substandard performance and want of intensity, the team and coaches refocused yesterday in practice. Harvard coach Bill Doyle made it clear that the team can't expect everything. They have to go out and play instead of just turning up.
An inspiring individual victory against Dartmouth at the number eight seed by junior Jake Hollinger, who is usually number ten on the squad, along with yesterday's intense practice should help keep the lapse from the team mentality short-lived.
Ben-Shachar said, "We are going to get back on track and take one match at a time, starting with this weekend against Trinity and Rochester."
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