The last time the No. 1 Trinity men’s squash team lost a home game, the Harvard class of 2017 was still in diapers. 18 years and 162 wins later, the Bantams found themselves outmatched by the No. 2 ranked Crimson at home on Tuesday night.
Harvard (12-0, 5-0 Ivy) swept the first five matches on the ladder and the bottom two spots for a convincing 7-2 victory at Trinity (15-1) on Tuesday night. The last time the Crimson came away with a win against the Bantams was in 1998.
“I think a lot of it was coming in and accepting that we were ready,” co-captain Gary Power said. “We were ranked second, and we wanted to go out there and prove that we were the best. In that sense [the rankings] helped because we had something to prove.”
In the first match of the night, junior Tyler Olson braved the masses of Trinity fans to dish a sound defeat to his opponent, senior Matthew Mackin, by winning three consecutive games.
“A big shout out has to go to Tyler Olson at the number nine position,” Power said. “At the number nine position he goes on the court first. There was a big crowd and a lot of people cheering for his opponent, but he came out there and wasn’t fazed at all… He put us in a good position for the rest of the match.”
The Crimson won two additional matches in three games. One win came from senior Ali Farag in the number one spot and the other from Power, who played as the number four seed. Harvard had already secured the win before Farag and Power played.
“The game was already won by the time I went on the court,” Power said. “But I’m happy I won, and hope that I carry on winning to contribute to the team.”
The game that dealt the Bantams its first loss against the Crimson in fifteen years was that of co-captain Brandon McLaughlin. McLaughlin defeated Trinity’s number two seed, Karan Malik, in a close 3-2 match. After a tight four games to tie the match, 2-2, McLaughlin managed to notch another win for Harvard with a decisive fifth game victory, 11-4.
In an earlier match, freshman Dylan Murray dropped only one game to junior Vrishab Kotian. However, Kotian came within two points of winning in each game, and the fourth set became a tough back-and-forth rally that lasted up to 13 points.
“We’re obviously very thrilled to win,” Farag said. “But we don’t want to get overexcited or overconfident. We just want to keep the momentum going.”
Senior Nigel Koh demonstrated his ability to stay calm under pressure against his opponent, junior Elroy Leong, in the fifth spot. After a long battle in the first game and a dropped second game, the match was tied at 1-1. Nigel Koh managed to come back strong in the last two games, winning both by a margin of eight points.
“[Trinity] might be better on paper,” Farag said. “But we knew we had a very good chance, and we just didn’t want to get frightened beforehand. We just talked about it individually, took it step by step, and everyone focused on his own match. It paid off.”
The only two Harvard losses came from matches played by freshman Bryan Koh in the sixth seed and sophomore Nick Hopcroft in the seventh spot. Hopcroft was unable to best Trinity junior Moustafa Hamada, and fell 4-1 after Hamada won the first two games.
Bryan Koh went to five games with Bantams’ sophomore Zeyad Elshorafy, but he fell short in the end and lost, 3-2, in a heartbreaking last game that went to 17 points.
“I was so proud to see [Bryan Koh] battling with [Zevad Elshorafy],” Farag said. “[Elshorafy] is a very good player, and I thought he had the edge on winning before the game, but now I am confident that if Bryan plays him again in nationals that he has a very good chance of winning.”
Playing as the number eight seed, senior Tom Mullaney outplayed freshman Affeeq Ismail in four close games.
Farag notched his tenth consecutive win this season as the number one player, and Mullaney, Olson, and Power lead the team with twelve wins each.
“Our coach said a very nice line before the match,” Farag said. “He said ‘We’ve worked a lot this year, we know we’re fitter than any team. We know we’re better than any other team, all we have to do is just play.’ It was nice, and I think it made our team believe.”
—Crimson staff writer Emily T. Wang can be reached at email@example.com.
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