The Harvard men’s squash team’s quest for an undefeated season came to an end on Saturday, as the No. 5 Crimson (4-1) fell, 7-2, to No. 3 Rochester (5-2) after a series of close point-for-point matches ended in the Yellowjackets’ favor.
“We were prepared, we weren’t outclassed, we were hanging with them until the very end, but it just went the other way,” co-captain Frank Cohen said.
With a 3-0 win by co-captain Colin West in the No. 1 spot against Rochester captain Jim Bristow, Harvard looked to be ready for another comeback win reminiscent of last year’s 5-4 victory. But with junior Reed Endresen and freshman Jason Michas fighting a 2-2 battle at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, respectively, the scent of victory started to vanish.
“It was mixed emotions,” Crimson head coach Satinder Bajwa said. “On the one hand, it was our first match of  and playing such a tough team, it’s hard to come out playing your best because we haven’t had as many match practices.”
“On the other hand, we played the No. 3 team, who was as high as two,” Bajwa continued. “It’s very tight up there. No. 2, 3, and 4 have all beaten each other and we are five, so we showed we belong among these groups.”
In addition to West’s win, No. 9 Alexander Ma and No. 10 Alex Lavoie defeated their counterparts, both by 3-0 sweeps, but that would be all for Harvard.
Yet even with the Yellowjackets abuzz after their first win of the day by Benjamin Fischer over Crimson sophomore Richard Hill, Harvard—particularly Michas and Endresen—did not go down quietly.
“This could easily have been 6-3 or 5-4 if we had won the two tight games at No. 4 and No. 5,” Bajwa said.
Playing on neighboring courts, Endresen and Michas quickly reached 1-0 leads. Endresen continued the momentum to 2-0 before allowing Rochester’s William Newnham to pull even with close 11-9 and 11-7 wins. In the final game, Endresen and Newnham continued shot-for-shot before Newnham scored six-straight points to end the match.
Michas had more resistance from his counterpart, as each player claimed two games apiece before entering the fifth. Up 9-7, Michas could taste victory before Yellowjacket Matthew Domenick snapped out four corner shots for the win.
“I think a lot of this came down to a couple points here or there, some mental mistakes, and some people on Rochester stepping up,” Cohen said. “A couple of matches were even, so at that point the whole match comes down to a series of two to five points and in those instances, for the most part, Rochester was able to pull it out.”
Down by three team points going into the court switch, the atmosphere at Barnaby Courts darkened for Harvard, as its four-game winning streak seemed in jeopardy.
“Our goal overall has been Ivy League-focused, so in the grand scheme of things it’s not the end of the world,” Cohen said. “But it’s tough to have a first loss of the season, especially after we have been training so hard.”
For the Yellowjackets, a win against the Crimson felt like redemption after its 8-1 loss to No. 1 Trinity the day before. With the end of Michas and Endresen’s matches, a disappointed Crimson team began to focus its sights on playing the top team in the nation next weekend.
“We are going to work on some crisis situations,” Bajwa said. “We are going to work on sharpening our match temperament this week, and we are going to learn from this match and see where we could have done a little better in terms of being more competitive in a situation where its 50-50, where one or two points can make the difference.”
“I truly believe that a team that is expecting big things but is somewhat of an underdog has to have lessons like these,” Bajwa added. “A tough loss like [Saturday’s], I think is going to make us better for the rest of the season.”
—Staff writer Alex Sopko can be reached at email@example.com.
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