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While the Harvard men’s squash team’s season may have ended Feb. 29 with a loss to Trinity in the CSA Team Championships, freshman Garnett Booth is glad his season didn’t come to a close on that sour note.
Booth competed in this weekend’s USSRA National Juniors Closed Squash Championships held at the Murr Center. Despite entering the tournament unseeded and ranked No. 12 in the country for males under 19, Booth advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling 9-3, 9-0, 9-0 to second-seeded Gilly Lane, who also happens to be Penn’s top player.
Booth finished the tournament in third place after beating No. 4 seed Edward Cerullo in the consolation match 9-1, 9-0, 9-2. In a match marred by Cerullo’s constant questioning of the referee’s calls, Booth had little trouble disposing of his higher ranked opponent.
“He argued with the referee more than he played squash,” Booth said of Cerullo, who was issued several conduct warnings throughout the match. “He simply gave the match to me.”
Booth is no stranger to matches plagued by questionable refereeing. In Harvard’s 5-4 loss to the Bantams in the Team Championships, Booth saw several calls overturned on appeal to Trinity player Pat Malloy in a 3-2 loss to Jacques Swanepoel. In that match, Booth was poised to close out Swanepoel in the fourth game, but Malloy turned several strokes into lets, keeping the door open for Swanepoel to make a comeback.
Booth faced equally troubling calls during his second-round match Friday against No. 6 seed Lee Rosen. Rosen came out in the first game playing excellent squash, getting to balls all over the court and controlling the Ten route to taking the game 9-6. But Booth battled back, and while Rosen fatigued after his stellar start, Booth just got stronger and won the next two games 9-4 and 9-3.
In the fourth game, the questionable officiating increased and Booth became frustrated, arguing vehemently with the referee. Nonetheless, Booth was able to complete the upset and won the fourth game 9-6, advancing into the quarterfinals. Despite the different outcomes, the similarity between the Swanepoel and Rosen matches was not lost on co-captain Ziggy Whitman.
“The ref was inconsistent, calling similar balls differently on different occasions,” said Whitman, who—along with teammates co-captain James Bullock and freshmen Siddharth Suchde and Ilan Oren—showed up in support of Booth. “This is frustrating for a player and is exactly what we felt happened to [Booth] against Trinity.”
After getting by Rosen, Booth found himself matched up against someone who plans to be a future teammate, third-seeded Verdi DiSesa II, a Harvard recruit. But Booth showed no mercy against the higher-ranked DiSesa, beating the Philadelphia native easily 9-2, 9-2, 9-2.
Chessin Gertler, another student who plans to attend Harvard next fall, also competed in the tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals before being ousted by the eventual champion, top-seeded Christopher Gordon.
“I was really, really delighted to get to see them under a competitive situation,” Harvard coach Satinder Bajwa said. “I think we have two players who are really outstanding…and who can really compete at the collegiate level.”
Gordon and DiSesa plan to join an already young Crimson team next year. Along with Booth, Harvard will rely heavily on current freshmen Suchde, Oren, Jason De Lierre and Mihir Sheth.
Booth, for one, is admittedly still feeling a little “down” about the loss at Trinity, but is excited to see what he and the rest of the young guns might help the Crimson accomplish next year.
“I’m really looking forward to next year,” he said. “And I can’t wait to get my revenge against Trinity.”
—Staff writer David H. Stearns can be reached at email@example.com.
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