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The Harvard men’s squash team endured several tight matches against St. Lawrence Saturday night, but it was the match between top-ranked Ali Farag and the Saints’ Amr Khalifa that stole the show, as the senior found himself face-to-face with the opponent that eliminated him from the last year’s CSA Individual Championships. Anchored by Farag’s victory over Khalifa, the No. 2 Crimson (8-0, 3-0 Ivy) clinched the victory, 8-1, over St. Lawrence (8-2).
“I’m really happy with it,” Farag said. “We beat the No. 4 team in the country, and I think that sends a message to the entire squash world that we are working really hard and that everyone on the team is contributing.”
Last year’s loss to Khalifa in the semifinal of the CSA Individual Championships was Farag’s first collegiate defeat, and the veteran set out to avenge the showing on the glass courts at the Murr Center. Despite an early deficit, Farag rallied back, seizing control of the match and refusing to hand over the reins from that point onward, taking down Khalifa in straight sets, 11-4, 11-5, and 11-7.
“We’ve played together for years, so we know each other really well, and I think it showed today on the courts,” Farag said. “I think that the player who’s stronger mentally has the advantage in the match, and today I think I had that edge, which made the difference for me.”
The rest of the Crimson team followed suit, as the squad toppled the Saints to preserve its undefeated record.
“Going in we felt it could have gone either way,” Harvard coach Mike Way said. “I don’t often say this, but our guys were fantastic today. They were really, really solid.”
One of these solid performances came from junior Tyler Olson. Olson beat his opponent in three straight games, each of which was a hard-fought contest. After jumping out to an initial lead, Olson lost momentum and had to climb out of an early hole. Every game saw Olson falling behind at some point, but the junior managed to battle back each time, eventually claiming the match, 13-11, 11-8, and 11-9.
Senior Tom Mullaney also gave a strong effort, coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the first game to regain the lead and win his match in straight games, 11-8, 11-3, and 11-3.
Freshman Bryan Koh had to fight in a similar fashion to bring home the win. After dropping the first game, the rookie claimed the second and third. The Saints' sixth seed, Sebastian Riedelsheimer, took the fourth game, sending the match into a fifth round.
“I think I did a good job of staying in the game,” Bryan Koh said. “It was really tough mentally, but I’m really happy I was able to overcome it and walk away with the win.”
The match featured several tough rallies and a neck-and-neck pace that kept the freshman and his opponent at a close margin the entire match. Koh emerged victorious, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, and 11-7.
“Bryan’s opponent was really gritty,” Way added. “It got physical at times. He had to hold his head up to come out in the fifth for the win.”
St. Lawrence handed the Crimson its first dropped match of the season, as Brandon McLaughlin fell at the No. 2 spot. The Saints' Moustafa Bayoumy defeated the senior in straight sets, 11-9, 13-11, and 11-6.
Although the Crimson saw itself facing some of its tightest matches since the season started, the team still managed to keep its undefeated record intact.
“We were still able to win, in spite of not all playing at our best, which I think says a lot,” Farag said. “It shows how strong everyone is on this team…. Even when we have a bad day, we can still fight for the win.”
Other wins for Harvard came from freshman Dylan Murray, sophomore Nicholas Hopcroft, and seniors Gary Power and Nigel Koh, all of whom maintained undefeated personal records with the day’s wins.
With a flawless season record to uphold, the Crimson looks to continue its streak in the coming weeks to solidify a top bid at nationals.
“The whole team, the whole attitude, what our captains are doing, it’s all fantastic,” Way said. “It was nice to see us go about our business today, and give such a solid performance.”
—Staff writer Jillian Dukes can be reached at email@example.com.
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