After four consecutive 9-0 victories, No. 3 Harvard men’s squash took on No. 6 Penn at the Murr Center on Sunday. But the Quakers would not fold as easily as the Crimson’s recent opponents had all done.
After most of the individual matches had wrapped up, it was deadlocked at 4-4 with just the bout between number eight Bradley Smith and Penn’s James B. Watson remaining. Like the overall match, Smith and Watson’s clash was a back-and-forth affair. Eventually, Smith took a 10-4 lead in the final game. Watson scraped and clawed for five straight points to nearly knot the game at 10, but the Quakers' comeback was not to be. Smith put away Watson for an 11-9 decision, and Harvard (9-1, 4-1 Ivy) breathed a collective sigh of relief as it collected its fifth consecutive victory.
This weekend’s matches, against Ivy League foes Penn (9-4, 3-2) and No. 7 Princeton (8-3, 3-2), were slightly closer than previous matchups against non-conference opponents Western Ontario, Rochester, and Drexel.
“I think as a unit we definitely were not as strong today as we have been,” co-captain Madhav Dhingra said. “You’ve got to give [Penn] credit. They came out fighting really hard from point one in each of their matches.”
One factor working against the Crimson’s favor over the weekend was the absence of typical number five player Samuel Scherl. The freshman suffered an ankle injury on Friday, and so several Harvard players were forced to shift up to play in higher slots than they were accustomed to.
“I think we came out really strong yesterday,” Dhingra said. “We had a little hiccup with our No. 5 Sam Scherl. It was a good test for the team going in on the weekend without him just to see how everyone else would kind of step up.”
HARVARD 5, PENN 4
Aside from Smith’s battle, the Crimson and the Quakers were decidedly evenly matched throughout Sunday’s contest.
Dhingra dropped his first decision of the season, and Harvard also suffered defeats in spots one, seven, and nine. However, it was the trio of sophomores Timothy Brownell and Sean Hughes and co-captain David Ryan which saved the day for Harvard.
Brownell, Hughes, and Ryan all went undefeated on the weekend. Facing off against the Quakers, Brownell and Ryan each gathered 3-0 sweeps, and Hughes’ win continued his undefeated mark in his collegiate career.
“Each match is important, whether that’s 5-4 or 9-0,” Dhingra said. “Win or lose we’re just looking for people to really push themselves and improve from where they were a day ago or a week ago or a month ago. So each match is important, but that being said our two, three, and four have been rock solid.”
HARVARD 9, PRINCETON 0
Several Crimson submitted strong performances against the visiting Tigers, and several others fended off their challengers to secure Harvard’s first victory of the weekend.
In spots two through five, seven, and nine, Harvard swept Princeton. In an especially dominant showing, Ryan defeated the Tigers’ Clark Doyle in a trio of 11-2 games.
Sophomore Saadeldin Abouaish played in Saturday's most hotly-contested match. Princeton’s Youssef Ibrahim rallied after losing the first game to capture the second, 12-10. In what would become a back-and-forth battle, Abouaish reclaimed the lead in the third contest, winning 11-6. However, Ibrahim evaded elimination with an 11-6 victory of his own. It would come down to the fifth and deciding game to choose a winner at the No. 1 spot.
In that final game, Abouaish came out on top in an 11-8 decision.
As the regular season winds down—with only three matches remaining—the team looks to both continue its winning momentum and tune up for Nationals in late February.
“Trinity’s one of our biggest rivals, and Yale has been performing well too, so two solid tests before the Nationals,” Dhingra said. “People have improved significantly from where they were a month or two months ago, and everyone has bought in. I’m pretty excited for Nationals, and I think we’ve got a good shot.”
—Staff writer Jack Stockless can be reached at email@example.com.
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