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HARTFORD, CONN.—Sophomore intercollegiate No. 6 Will Broadbent knocked off No. 3 Michael Ferreira, but it wasn’t enough as the No. 3 Harvard men’s squash team lost 7-2 to No. 1 Trinity on Saturday.
A carnival-like atmosphere surrounded the match between the two squash powerhouses as the George A. Kellner Squash Center welcomed a packed house—including fans who painted their chests and others wearing capes. T-shirt sales and introductions conducted over a public address system added to the spectacle, which even included an appearance by the Bantam mascot.
“It adds to the energy and makes it more emotional, makes it more fun,” co-captain Ziggy Whitman said. “But since it’s only one year—especially for the younger players—it makes it more difficult to ground yourself and say, ‘it’s just a squash match.’”
Broadbent fell behind 8-0 to open his match, but fought his way back to 8-7 before dropping the first game 9-7.
“I was very nervous,” Broadbent said. “I was a little tentative, and then I started settling down.”
“At the end of the game, I was thinking, ‘Look, this guy really only won one point, because I basically gave him those first eight points,’” Broadbent added.
Throughout the match, Broadbent took extra time between points, frustrating Ferreira.
“He’s the type of player who likes to play a very quick game,” Broadbent said. “I’m the opposite. I like to take my time, prepare myself for the point, so I’m not going to let him rush me and I knew that me slowing it down would take him out of his rhythm a little bit.”
Broadbent’s confidence proved justified, as he took the next three games 9-6, 9-4 and 9-5 to capture the match.
The win had added importance for Broadbent because it came on the heels of his loss to intercollegiate No. 7 Ryan Donegan at Dartmouth on Thursday. Evidently, that match only served to refocus Broadbent, who talked to co-captain Ziggy Whitman on the bus ride back from Dartmouth.
“I thought he was gloomy,” Whitman said. “But then I went and talked to him and it wasn’t gloom; it was determination.”
At No. 2, freshman Siddharth Suchde dropped a five-game heartbreaker to 2002 intercollegiate champion and current No. 2 Bernardo Samper. Throughout the match, Suchde demonstrated his range in consistently tracking down balls, but appeared reluctant to go for a kill.
“That’s his game, unfortunately,” Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa said. “He’s more of an attritional player.”
“When you come up to a college level, you’ve got to start understanding your weapons and understanding how you’re going to carve out key points,” Bajwa added.
Nonetheless, Suchde took the first game 9-5, but Samper returned to blank him in the second. Suchde pushed ahead again by taking the third 9-2, but Samper roared back with a 9-1 win in the fourth as the players alternated dominating the fast-paced games.
“Bernardo loves that pace,” Broadbent said. “But the faster you play, the better Sid plays.”
“Both of us, whenever we lost a game, we came out more fired up for the next one,” Suchde said. “In the fifth, it was a matter of who could hold their nerve.”
That turned out to be Samper, who took the rubber game 9-4, saving several points with shots off the back wall.
Junior intercollegiate No. 22 Asher Hochberg came up with the other win for the Crimson (3-1, 3-0 Ivy), defeating No. 23 Pat Malloy—the only American in the Bantam lineup—in five games at No. 7 in what may prove to be a breakout victory.
“He carried our team for those five games in a way that he hasn’t ever done, but he has been poising himself to do,” Whitman said.
“That was a big, big stepping stone for him,” Bajwa said. “That was a landmark.”
Hochberg focused on its importance from a team perspective.
“If it can do anything, it can just show that we had a legitimate chance of beating them,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to know that we won one at the top and one at the bottom to show that we’re even at both ends.”
At No. 4, co-captain and intercollegiate No. 8 James Bullock fell in three games to intercollegiate No. 11 Yvain Badan, but Bullock led in the first two games, which each witnessed 8-8 ties.
Other matches were not as close.
Junior intercollegiate No. 10 Michael Blumberg lost 9-0, 9-2, 9-6 to No. 13 Nadeem Osman at No. 5.
“It took a while for me to really get into the match,” Blumberg said. “I really started getting going and started feeling a lot more comfortable in the third game, but I let him get ahead of me right away at the start.”
“I might have let the atmosphere get to me a little more than I usually do,” he added.
“That was a definite let-down,” Bajwa said. “I really don’t think Mike will play a match like that again.”
Freshman Ilan Oren lost 9-0, 9-0, 9-3 to No. 12 Regardt Schonborn at No. 3.
“A few guys didn’t really play how we anticipated they would play,” Bullock said.
“A couple of our freshmen are far better than they were able to play,” Bajwa said.
Freshman Jason De Lierre lost in straight games at No. 6, while classmate Mihir Sheth fell in four at No. 9.
Whitman, the intercollegiate No. 21, suffered a heartbreaking four-game loss to Shaun Johnstone at No. 8 in a matchup of players with similar styles.
“In my heart, I had this desire to win that’s so huge,” Whitman said. “I had so much fight left inside of me when I came off court. It’s very frustrating to me that my skill level let my heart down.”
In the end, the match may have come down to the experience of the Bantams (8-0), who won their 98th consecutive match.
“They have an ability to close the deal on the day that we haven’t figured out yet,” Whitman said.
But everyone present acknowledged the talent and quality of both squads.
“You will never see assembled two more powerful squash teams,” said Trinity coach Paul Assaiante, who was awarded the President’s Cup for “substantial contributions to the game … over the past year” by United States Squash Racquets Association President Ken Stilman before the match.
—Staff writer Alan G. Ginsberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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