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For the Harvard men’s squash team, history is on the verge of repeating itself. Like last year, the Crimson will enter this weekend’s College Squash Association (CSA) Team Championships as the fourth seed and will face nearly the same string of opponents. The Crimson hopes to improve on last year’s third place finish, although doing so would almost certainly require defeating perennial powerhouse Trinity.
Harvard (6-3, 4-2 Ivy) comes into the tournament having suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Yale on Wednesday. The match went down to the wire, as Harvard freshman and intercollegiate No. 6 Will Broadbent fought valiantly against Yale’s top player, No. 3 Julian Illingworth, in the rubber game of a 4-4 tie. Unfortunately for the Crimson, Illingworth came out on top, resulting in Harvard’s first home loss to the Bulldogs in more than forty years.
Harvard hopes to shake off this devastating loss and bounce back quickly. Their first match will be against the University of Western Ontario, a team they swept 9-0 earlier this year.
“Hopefully that should be a good warm-up round,” senior co-captain Dylan Patterson said.
But looming ahead of Harvard in their quest for a national title is Trinity, who the Crimson will likely play in the second round. Trinity (16-0), winner of 77 straight games and five straight National Titles, is the top seed in this year’s tournament.
The Bantams have recently made a habit of dashing Harvard’s hopes. Last season, they ended the Crimson’s run at a national title with a definitive 8-1 victory. Trinity also beat Harvard 5-0 at the USSRA five-man team championships two months ago and 8-1 two weeks ago in Cambridge.
In the past two years, only sophomore intercollegiate No. 10 Mike Blumberg has defeated a Trinity opponent. Blumberg has racked up three wins against the Bantams, including his most recent 3-1 victory over Nickolas Kyme, also currently ranked No. 10.
Hopefully, some of Blumberg’s success will rub off on his teammates.
Broadbent will likely face off against the top-ranked college player in the country: sophomore Bernardo Samper, an import from Columbia. Broadbent would undoubtedly have his work cut out for him.
“[Broadbent] is looking to have his first win against a top five,” Patterson said. “It’s real tough to go out there against the best in the country.”
In all, the Bantam team includes five of the top twenty players in the country.
“The odds are stacked against us, but I think there’s a lot we can do,” Patterson said. “I think we can go out there and make them fight for every inch, make them show that they’re the better team.”
Even if Harvard loses to Trinity in the semifinals, it will get the chance to play for third place, most likely against the second or third seeded team–either Princeton (8-1, 6-0) or Yale (17-2, 5-1), both of whom have defeated the Crimson in the past two weeks.
“We’ll be looking for revenge . . . in a competitive way,” Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa said of the Bulldogs following Wednesday’s loss.
Last year, Harvard’s desire for revenge was satisfied. Following their semifinal loss to Trinity, the Crimson faced off against Yale in the consolation match. Though Yale had won an earlier meeting that week 6-3, Harvard routed the Bulldogs 8-1 to take third place.
Co-captain Thomas Storch downplayed the Crimson’s need for vengeance.
“If it’s Yale, if it’s Princeton, if it’s Trinity–I don’t think it really matters,” Storch said. “We’d like to get another chance at the teams that have beaten us, but we’re just going to go out there and play, whoever the team is.”
For the seniors on the team, this tournament represents the end of their college careers.
“This is my last match, so I’m looking forward to it,” Patterson said.
To end on a winning note, Patterson and his teammates will have to play some of the best squash they’ve played all year.
“We’ve been training for six months now,” Storch said. “We’re just going to do what we do every game, which is play our asses off.”
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