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The stakes were high across the river at the Murr Center, as Harvard men’s squash took on Yale (11-3, 5-2 Ivy) with an Ivy League title on the line. The Crimson (15-2, 6-1) and its chief rival were tied at the top of the Ivy League at 5-1 in conference play going into their first match since ‘Nemo’ disrupted both squads’ schedules.
As has been the case in recent meetings between the two schools, the match was closely contested throughout and featured multiple thrillers. In the wee hours of the night, Harvard proved too strong and took the victory, 6-3, earning a share of the Ivy League championship in front of the capacity crowd.
“[Crimson coach Mike Way] always uses a quote from Michael Jordan,” junior Brandon McLaughlin said. “’When the pressure is on we are the ones who stay the same and everyone else changes.’”
The title is the first for the men under the tutelage of Way, who is now in his third season with the squad.
“I’m delighted,” Way said. “It was a team of young men. They showed what they are made of.”
The clincher came from the squad’s co-captain Zeke Scherl who lined cross-court to cap off a 3-1 victory over his Yale opponent with an 11-5 win in the final game.
Going into the third and final flight, the Crimson had control, edging its opponents 4-3 after junior Ali Farag took care of business in straight sets. In the final two matches, the Crimson secured key victories from Scherl and Gary Power.
Though both squads had opportunities to pull ahead, the match stayed even throughout, with five of the nine matches being decided in five games.
Junior Nigel Koh emerged victorious in the first of these early five-gamers. After taking control of the match toward the end of the fourth frame, Koh turned it on to convincingly win the final frame, 11-0.
“For Nigel [Koh] to win in five at the number three position was really vital,” coach Way said.
McLaughlin also had a big match. He outlasted Yale’s No. 2 Hywel Robinson after falling to him in four games earlier in the season.
“He’s a physical player,” McLaughlin said. “I tried to control the center of the court as much as possible and keep him running so he couldn’t really get in my way.”
The night was one of tribute to seniors Scherl, Jason Michas, Alexander Ma, Charles Cabot, Shaw McKean, who each played his last match at home.
“They led in the gym and with work ethic and they were just awesome,” Way said.
The night ended with mixed results for the seniors in the nine-man rotation.
While Scherl ultimately gave Harvard the advantage, his co-captain, Michas suffered his first loss of the season.
“Our two captains did a stellar job [and] led by example”
The last times these sides faced each other, the victory was decided in the final match. The Bulldogs emerged victorious in that one, defending its home court. The Crimson’s last victory over Yale came in November of 2011.
“It’s always tough playing Yale,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a big match.”
Farag remained unscathed in the No. 1 spot, handling his match against Yale’s No. 1 Kenneth Chang.
Both teams dropped their only match of the season to Princeton. Yale took three individual matches against the Tigers two weeks after Harvard managed four.
“It sort of woke them up,” Way said of the loss to Princeton.
The match puts the Crimson’s overall winning percentage at 85 percent on the season.
Harvard’s postseason will begin next week when it heads to New Haven for the CSA team championships.
—Staff writer Daniel A. Grafstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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