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As the regular season draws to a close for squash teams across the country, the Harvard men and women will hit the road to take on Ivy League foes Penn and Princeton.
The No. 6 Crimson men (6-2, 2-1 Ivy) come into this weekend ranked between its next two opponents, with Penn (4-5, 1-3 Ivy) claiming the tenth spot in the nation and Princeton (6-1, 3-1 Ivy) falling a few spots above Harvard at No. 3. The Ancient Eight rivalry adds an additional spark to this weekend’s contests between Harvard and the two top-ten teams.
“It is always tougher playing Ivy League schools, because there’s a little bit more heat and tensions are high,” captain Reed Endresen said. “Everyone wants to win the Ivy League title, so this weekend will definitely be challenging.”
The Crimson visits the Quakers on Saturday for the weekend’s first match. Though Harvard comes in as the favorite, the contest is of utmost importance to the Crimson squad, and the team plans to approach the game with playoff implications in mind.
“We played both [Penn and Princeton] earlier in season in during the Ivy Scrimmages, and we beat both of them,” Endresen said. “Penn has dropped down a bit in the rankings since then, but we still have to take care of business on Saturday.”
After what Harvard hopes is enough time to recover between matches, the Crimson will face its toughest opponent thus far in No. 3 Princeton this Sunday. The Tigers sit second in the Ivy League, after a tight 5-4 loss to Yale last weekend.
“We want to go into the Princeton game both mentally and physically ready to play,” Endresen said. “Our goal is to win both matches and stay in contention to win the Ivy League.”
This weekend is key for Harvard if the team hopes to have a shot at the Ancient Eight crown this season, especially with a loss to No. 5 Cornell already in the books.
And with each member of the men’s team picking up two individual wins last weekend, the Crimson appears to be ready to begin the last stretch of the regular season.
“We’ve done what we need up to this point, and right now we’re just sharpening up,” Endresen said. “These next couple days we need to keep our minds on our team goals and stay mentally prepared to play tough matches.”
On the women’s side, matchups look to be challenging as well. Harvard (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) plays its next Ivy League opponents in the same order as their male counterparts, starting with the No. 5 Quakers (6-2, 3-1 Ivy) on Saturday and facing off against the No. 4 Tigers (6-2, 3-2 Ivy) the following day.
Currently ranked number one in the nation, the Crimson will focus on playing up to its full potential against No. 5 Penn and No. 4 Princeton.
The Quakers have already proven themselves capable of an upset, winning their most recent matchup against the Tigers, 5-4.
“You can never underestimate teams like Penn and Princeton. ” captain Alisha Mashruwala said. “They’re currently ranked fourth and fifth in the country and we’re ranked at number one, but that doesn’t say much. A lot of [what happens] depends on the day. We’ve trained hard leading up to these matches and everyone is playing really well.”
The women’s team picked up right where it left off last season—one in which Harvard earned a national team championship—continuing its undefeated streak through its six matches so far this year.
The Crimson has swept every one of its opponents by a score of 9-0 and sophomore Laura Gemmell—who looks to defend her national individual championship title this year—claims the top individual rank in the country.
Still, this weekend will provide Harvard with a big test, as the team will take on two of the country’s top squads.
“Penn and Princeton are two very strong teams,” Mashruwala said. “We’ve trained very hard these last few weeks, so what we want to do is just play our best and hopefully we’ll come out [of the weekend] with two wins.”
To do this, the women’s team will rely on their training regimen leading up to the weekend and a lot of team chemistry.
“The biggest things we have going for our team are our team sprint and the hard work that every single player shows, day in and day out,” Mashruwala said. “There is never a day when everyone is not giving her all. I think a lot of our success has come because we’ve worked very hard this season.”
“It’s weird because squash is an individual sport when you go out there,” she continued. “But you also have to do well as a team, which makes it a bit harder. The team aspect is what we thrive on. We really motivate each other to do well as a team.”
—Staff writer Catherine E. Coppinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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