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Men's Squash Thrashes MIT 8-1

Eight-and-One
The Crimson lost just one game in Friday's victory over MIT.

In a riveting fourth game, Harvard sophomore John Finley Ong fought back from a deficit to delight the crowd by winning a nail-biting game and tying his match at 2-2. It was the loudest the crowd got all afternoon, but it was not enough for Ong, who ended up losing the fifth game handily.

That was about the only thing that went wrong Friday for the No. 2 Crimson (3-0), who thrashed MIT 8-1 in the Murr Center for a third straight easy win to start the season.

The next-most exciting match took place at the same time on the furthest-away court, where senior Rana Bansal roared back from a 2-0 deficit to eek out the third game and then take the fourth and fifth, ensuring that Harvard would go at least 8-1 for the third consecutive match.

“Rana had a great comeback,” sophomore Samuel Scherl said. “He was down and won in five, that was awesome.”

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The other seven matches lacked the same level of intrigue that came with Ong’s and Bansal’s. The Crimson swept all seven, with the gap in talent evident pretty early on in most of the matches. Freshman Marwan Tarek, playing from the No.1 position, was especially impressing, wowing the crowd with difficult shot after difficult shot en route to a smooth victory in which he only allowed 11 points.

Tarek was one of two freshmen who played Friday. On an adjacent court, freshman George Crowne took a little while to warm up, falling behind in the first game before battling back to take that one and the next two for good measure.

“They [the freshmen] are looking really strong and really composed,” junior captain Timothy Brownell said. “They’re playing beyond their years and I’m really impressed so far. If they can just stay the course, it’s looking like a good season so far.”

While the first three matches of the season have not been especially competitive, they still serve as valuable experiences for everyone, particularly the freshmen.

“I think it’s been great getting the freshmen used to college matches in less intense situations,” Scherl said. “It’s hard when you’re playing at Trinity and there are 150 Trinity people yelling and getting in your face. It’s an easier way to ease into college competition and see what it’s like.”

Brownell, playing from the No. 2 position, and Scherl, No. 3, both matched Tarek’s dominant performance, ceding just 11 points each in their respective matches. They both looked assured from the get-go, jumping out to healthy leads in each game and winning wire-to-wire.

“I thought my movement was pretty good,” Brownell said. “It was my first match this season competitively, so it just felt really good to be out there wearing the jersey.”

Harvard was sure not to underestimate MIT(6-3) despite the gap in quality between the two teams.

“It’s about taking everyone seriously and preparing well,” Brownell said. “For these guys [MIT] we’re one of the biggest matches of the year, so they come out to play hard and we’ve got to respect them.”

This was the last of three matches against Boston-area rivals, and the Crimson took care of all three with ease, winning by a combined 25-2. Now, though, the going will get tougher, as the Harvard’s last match before a month-long gap comes next Wednesday against No.7 Dartmouth (1-0). The Big Green will be the best opponent the Crimson has faced all season, and it will also be Harvard’s first Ivy League match.

The Crimson will hope to match last year’s dominant 9-0 victory over Dartmouth. It will seek the return of a few injured players, one of whom, junior Saadeldin Abouaish, played from the No. 1 position in that match last year and came back from a 2-1 deficit to edge out his opponent 3-2.

“I think when we get our injured guys back in the lineup we’re going to be a notch better,” Scherl said.

After the Dartmouth match, Harvard will have played a lot more matches (four) before the semester break than it has historically (usually no more than two). Scherl downplayed the significance of this schedule shift and went on to say that he has been happy with the team’s early preparations this season.

“We’re using every match as an opportunity to identify some gaps and weaknesses and fix those,” Scherl said. “Over the course of the season we’ve gotten a lot fitter – fitness has been a big component this year.”

The national championship hopefuls will look to use that enhanced fitness to cruise into the semester break at 4-0. The Crimson’s match against Dartmouth starts at 5 pm Wednesday at the Murr Center courts.

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