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For two sets, junior Gary Power didn’t have enough.
With the Harvard men’s squash team tied with the Princeton Tigers, 4-4, in the national semifinals, Power was the team’s final hope. Four players who had lost to the Tigers in the previous matchup, a 5-4 defeat on Jan. 13, had scored victories on the day. Then junior Ali Farag—who had never lost in his collegiate career—fell in three sets. The four Crimson players who had scored victories against their Tigers opponents a month earlier in Cambridge had fallen one by one. A spot in the national championship, which had eluded Harvard in 2012, was on the line; a rematch with Trinity awaited the winner.
“Farag had taken a big loss and our captain was out with an injury, and at the time we were not looking good at all,” Crimson coach Mike Way said.
Harvard’s No. 1 player before Farag joined the team, Power had since dropped in the team rankings. Playing the fourth line for the team, he had posted a dominating 11-3 record on the season. But against Princeton’s Dylan Ward, Power was in trouble. After dropping the first set, 6-11, he could not close a tight second set, 10-12, and entered the third with his back against the wall. All eight other matches had been settled in four sets or fewer; no player had dropped the first two sets and even managed to claim the third.
At this point, Way said he turned to an assistant coach and murmured that Power just needed the third set. For the player whom Way calls “the fittest guy in college squash,” the opening didn’t need to be large. Given an inch, Power would take a mile.
And, against the odds, Power fought back and took the third set, 11-7. He pushed the match to a fifth set by the same score in the fourth, sending Ward reeling. In the fifth, Power scored a third consecutive 11-7 victory to push the Crimson into the finals.
“There’s nobody more determined,” Way said. “If you put determination in a beast like that, you’re going to get something quite awesome.”
Although the team fell in the finals, 6-3, to Trinity, Way said that Power’s play will not be forgotten.
“I’ve only been here three seasons but that was the biggest moment I’ve ever seen,” Way said afterward. “For him to come out and do what he did was absolutely heroic.”
—Staff writer David Freed can be reached at email@example.com.
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