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The No. 5 Harvard men’s squash team got off to a strong start Friday night, dropping just three games on the way to a 9-0 rout at No. 10 Williams in its first regular-season matchup of the year. But the win did not come without some difficulty.
“The score did not reflect the strength of Williams’ men’s team,” Harvard coach Mike Way said. “There were a number of matches where our guys had to work hard [to come away with the win]. We’ve been training very hard, and it was a much more of a battle than the score suggests.”
An impressive sophomore class—which currently boasts four of the top nine players in the lineup—led the way for Harvard, notching two 3-0 sweeps and four victories on the night.
“It was our first match of the season, so [the contest against Williams] really sets the tone for the rest of the year,” sophomore Brandon McLaughlin said. “I think everyone played pretty well. ... It felt good to get back on the courts.”
Competing at the No. 1 spot, McLaughlin took down Ephs senior William Morris, 3-1. Despite dropping the second game by a score of 11-7, the sophomore outscored his opponent, 40-26.
“It was the first time I’ve played No. 1 at Harvard, and I was facing the best kid on the other team,” McLaughlin said. “He was a senior and was playing in front of his home crowd. He played pretty well and seemed pretty pumped up. I just think I pulled it out at the end.”
Classmate Gary Power had a strong showing at the No. 2 spot for the Crimson, giving up just 10 points to Williams junior Nick Marks to take the matchup in three games.
“Gary and Brandon go back and forth sharing that top spot,” Way said. “Brandon has the upper hand right now. ... Gary had his guy pretty comfortably, but he had to work hard for it. [McLaughlin, Power, and sophomore Nigel Koh] are sort of our three main guys right now. They’re playing 1, 2, and 3, so that says something right there.”
Koh, who is also a Crimson business editor, rounded out the top three positions with a victory over Williams freshman Kevin Chen.
Koh struggled at the start of the contest, losing his first game, 11-5. But the sophomore bounced back, to take the second game in extra points and eventually win the final two games, 11-7 and 11-4, respectively.
Koh won each game by a larger margin than the previous frame to come away with the 3-1 win.
“Nigel never does anything easily, he’s just that type of player,” Way said. “He’s what we call an attritional player. He always has long rallies and won a very tough match [against Williams.]”
Harvard’s rookies also posted a strong showing on the court Friday night. Freshman Nicholas Hopcraft took down Williams sophomore Taylor Foehl in four games at the No. 4 spot, dropping the first before coming back to take the final three frames.
At the No. 7 spot, classmate Julian Kirby swept his first collegiate opponent of the regular season, 3-0, earning three tight victories, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9.
“The freshmen in the top nine seem like they’ve adjusted well,” McLaughlin said. “They will definitely contribute a lot for us this season. We’re really glad to have them.”
Six Harvard players won their individual matchups in three games, with Power, junior Zeke Scherl, sophomore Tom Mullaney, Kirby, junior Alexander Ma, and junior co-captain Jason Michas coming up big for the Crimson.
“[The match against Williams] was not an Ivy match, so it’s not as important, but it was a great way to start the season,” McLaughlin said. “We have high hopes for this year. We face Dartmouth in a couple of weeks. We’re hopeful and will see how everything plays out.”
The Crimson has enjoyed success against the Ephs in recent history, taking down Williams, 8-1, in the first weekend of last season and earning a 6-3 victory during the 2009-10 campaign. Friday night’s victory marks Harvard’s first sweep of the Ephs since 2006.
“[The match against Williams] was the first match of the season for the men, but the really big weekend was the Ivy scrimmages last weekend,” Way said. “Winning the Ivy scrimmages doesn’t mean anything, but it gives the guys a confidence boost and an idea of what they could achieve in the coming year.”
“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves, but this match [against Williams] along with the Ivy scrimmages, sets the tone,” he continued. “Any sports cliché will apply, whatever boring quote you want to throw in there. ... We got the job done.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at email@example.com.
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