Sunday, February 10, 2013
A Rollercoaster Month
2013 has had some big highs and lows for the Crimson. In mid-January, we faced Penn and Princeton on the road. Penn is always a tough opponent on their home courts, which are unusually hot and bouncy. Their women’s team also has a large crop of international recruits this year, which made for one of the most highly anticipated matches of the season.
We faced especially tough match-ups at the 3 and 2 positions with both Haley Mendez and Laura Gemmell finding themselves down 0-2 on the show court. In front of the booming Quakers crowd, they were able to make adjustments, control the pace and turn the tide to win in 5 games. Saumya Karki was able to put on a strong performance (straight off a flight from Mumbai, no less!) and captains Natasha Kingshott and Sarah Mumanachit earned victories at the 6 and 7 positions, respectively. Izzie Dowling lost in 4 games to the highly touted freshman Camile Lanier. Nonetheless, she played some of her best squash of the season. Julianne Chu was able to pull out a win in her first big match since coming back from injury. With the other matches finished, the entire crowd gathered around the center court to watch Sobhy’s rout of Nabilla Arrafin at the no. 1 position.
The guy came out strong and were able to handle their Penn opponents while only dropping one individual game.
Dinner at the McLaughlin’s
“This is the best thing that has ever happened!”
-So cried Baltimore native Jay Brooks, after the Ravens beat the Broncos in overtime during the playoffs. We were at the McLaughlin’s house after the Penn match for a wonderful team dinner. After a few added parents and friends were added to the mix, the guest list totaled over 60 people! The McLaughlins laid out of wonderful spread and were amazing hosts (anyone who has spent time with Slade McLaughlin will know that he takes hosting duties to heart!). After dinner, the women took some time to relax in the living room before the drive to Princeton as the boys couldn’t be rallied away from the football game.
Thanks very much to the McLaughlin’s for a wonderful evening!
The following day was the most difficult one of the season. Princeton is always a tough opponent but we believed that we would win. We lost a few key match-ups and fought our way back but came up short in both matches.
The women were first on first and every match was hard fought, though we were not able to overcome Princeton’s early lead. The brighter notes on the Crimson women’s side included wins by Amanda Sobhy, Laura Gemmell, Saumya Karki and Natasha Kingshott. Each woman on our team learned about as competition that day about dealing with nerves and maintaining focus.
The men were introduced after the women had finished and we desperately wanted to avenge the loss. We went down in a couple matches in the middle of the order and fought to regain our footing. Tommy Mullany and Zeke Scherl played well earned important victories on the day, as they both have throughout this season. Jason Michas, looking solid as ever, stayed on top of his opponent with a 3 game victory. Meanwhile, on the show court, Brandon McLaughlin was struggling with errors, having gone down 2-0 against Sam Kang of Princeton. Brandon was able to battle back with a flurry of winners to tie at 2-2. In the last few points of the fifth, Sam played incredibly tough despite a cramp, and was able to hit some phenomenal shots to take the match.
The Princeton match slipped away from us 5-4 on both sides and we are determined to prove what we are capable of at Nationals. To their credit, both Princeton teams have played well all season.
Afterwards, our players had a couple of days off and most were able to rest and regroup at home before getting back to work.
Amherst Round Robin
The following weekend, we travelled to the Pioneer Round Robin at Amherst College for our players lower in the lineup on both teams to get some competitive experience against. Our top nine guys would also face Western Ontario while the women played Hamilton.
Western seems to be a dark horse every year. They struggle with consistency, but with their full lineup, they could threaten to knock off any team in the country. In the first round, we found ourselves down 0-1 in games in several critical matches. Matt Roberts and Jason Michas both had matches that went the distance with both players winning in the fifth. Jason had a particularly spectacular finish at 19-17! Gary Power was able to take out James Van Staveren, a raw talent who had a phenomenal junior career. Nigel Koh finished off his skilled opponent in emphatic fashion with a scoreline of 8,4,8. Tactically, it was his best performance of the year. By the end of the match, we were able to right the ship and pull away to an 8-1 victory.
The men’s “Jacked Varsity” played in the match against Amherst that afternoon. Charlie Cabot and Shaw McKean lead introductions on the packed show court. Sachin Patel, Jake Matthews and Peter Janulis earned victories in the top nine. Nikhil Mehra’s match stretched into a marathon and as the other matches finished the gallery grew crowded. He won 20-18 in the fourth in front of his cheering teammates.
On the women’s side, Julie Monrad scored an impressive and difficult win over Hamilton at the 15 spot, beating her tall and athletic opponent in 5 tough games on an unusually loud court. Eliza Calihan, Natasha Anzik, Georgiana Brinkley and Allie Sperry posted wins in the top 10 against Amherst. The day was not as competitive for the women as for the men, but it was a great day to enjoy each other’s company with a team lunch and blindfolded cartoon contests during downtime. It was a day to lift the spirits and get back on our feet after a tough loss for both teams.
Below is a video of Ali playing Albert Shoihet, Western’s no.1 player. Albert, who is Beth’s son and Mike’s son-in-law, had a real challenge on his hands. Playing Ali on a dead court is about as tough as it gets in college squash. The first game was particularly exciting with incredible winners from both players. The next two were not as close and Ali was able to pull away.
Reception in NYC
January ended on a high note for our team. On the weekend of Jan 26th, Harvard alumni from different generations gathered at the Harvard Club in New York to meet and play with current team members.
The weekend was kicked off on the Friday evening with dinner with the seniors generously arranged by Greg Lee and Russell Ball. Players at the dinner included Alex Ma, Laura Gemmell, Charlie Cabot, Shaw McKean, Eliza Calihan, Jason Michas, Zeke Scherl, Sarah Mumanachit, and Natasha Kingshott. It was a great chance for them to sit down with two wonderful supporters of the program and swap stories about their experiences as part of Harvard Squash.
Saturday afternoon featured a hit-around between alumni and current players and an entertaining exhibition match between the 2010 and 2012 Intercollegiate Champions: Ali Farag and Colin West. At the cocktail reception that followed, the team members introduced themselves and mingled with Harvard squashers from years past. We heard a few words from Associate Athletic Director, Tim Wheaton, Mike Way, Hope Prockhop, Bill Kaplan, Tim Wyant and the captains of both the men’s and women’s teams. Everyone affirmed that we need to continue this annual gathering to celibrate our shared experience and keep the bonds of Harvard Squash strong. The players enjoyed the chance to meet so many of the people who have been in their place before and have gone on to do great things. The coaches loved being able to catch up with so many wonderful people and hope to see many of them at Men’s and Women’s Nationals at Yale.
With so many wonderful people involved,the event is sure to keep growing next year. Special thanks to Richard Chin (a Big Red man, but we love him anyway!), Tim Wyant, Charlene Neo, Joe and Diana Edge Dowling and our Friends Chairs Hope Prockop and Bill Kaplan.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Seasons greetings! We are excited to have this blog finally up and running. At the end of each month, we will be bringing you pre- and post- match updates, catching up with alumni and taking an inside look at the Crimson squash teams. Right now, our players are busy training (and carbo-loading!) around the globe.
Ali Farag is at home in Egypt, James Watkins and Asfy Nadeem are in the UK, Saumya Karki is in India and Tyler Olsen and the Gemmell sisters are in Canada. Matty Roberts, of South Africa, is spending his first American Christmas with the Dowling family (as long as he didn’t get lost in Grand Central!) Many of the players are at home on the east coast, getting ready to play the Williams White Tournament in Philly on the 4th-6th of Jan. It’s a great chance for college players to come together and get practice matches with a competitive buzz.
As usual, things have been pretty busy at the Murr Center. We’ve got a lot to catch up on. Hope you enjoy it!
Please come support us at Penn on Saturday, Jan. 12 and at Princeton, Sunday, Jan. 13!
Below are the Season Previews, video interviews with Head Coach, Mike Way on the team’s prospects this season:
“That’s the challenge..to get out there and try to prove again, that we are the best team in college squash.”
“It’s pretty much the same group of men, but if our team right now could play our team from last season, pretty sure we’d beat them 9-zip.”
The College Years – A time of change, challenge and regrettable haircuts
The sight of a newly bald Ali Farag, as seen in the video above, produced outcries and much unhappiness from our women’s team. He said he shaved it off because he “was bored during the hurricane.” Good thing that it grew back before he went home. I guess college is the time for it, if ever.
“Jacked Varsity” Bench Presses Boston College, Tufts and Berkeley
The fall is our time for hard training before the tougher matches come. It also allows us time for our “Jacked Varsity” (the guys ranked 15-24) to play local opponents. After working hard all fall, they defeated BC, Tufts and UC Berkeley by a whopping individual match score of 27-0. Seniors Charlie Cabot and Shaw McKean provided great leadership, keeping large squad on track in practice, warm-ups and introductions.
Men’s recap vs. BC (Tufts/Berkeley below)
Men’s Matches (with top 9 playing):
Dartmouth- Nov, 28 (Ivy Home Opener)
Men and Women Win 9-0
For several years, Dartmouth has held onto the in the 8th and 7th place rankings in the men’s and women’s rankings respectively. Their men’s team is led by a strong no. 1 player in Chris Hanson, a 1st Team All-American three years running who will likely play on the pro tour after college. The Big Green men came out fighting but we didn’t let them take any matches. The Dartmouth ladies also played well and stretched several of our women to 4 and 5 game matches.
Rochester- Dec, 1 (Men only)
Men Win 5-4
Playing at Rochester is always tough and our guys had been training towards this match all fall. In the first round of matches, Matty Roberts posted the second win of his college squash career at no. 9. In the no. 7 spot, Tommy Mullany avenged last year’s loss against JP Gaviria. After a tough first game, Gaviria’s gutsy retrieving couldn’t last against Tommy’s precise, tactical play with a scoreline of (9) 5, 4, 6. Meanwhile, our no. 2 player, Brandon McLaughlin, was frustrated that several calls had not gone his way after losing the first game to the experienced recruit from the UK, Neil Cordell. After regaining his focus, Brandon put on one of the top performances of the fall with a (9) 5, 8, 1 result. Men’s captain, Jason Michas, played with the savvy and tenacity of a veteran to come out on top 6, (9), 5, 3. Rochester’s top player, Andres Duany, will be in contention for a 1st Team All-America spot this year, but he was no match for Ali, who dispatched him in three games.
The bus ride back to Cambridge was long but upbeat and the win gave us great momentum going into winter break.
Williams- Dec, 5
Men and Women Win 9-0
The Ephs are an incredibly deep team, especially on the men’s side. They have improved a great deal in the last two years and already had an awesome win over the Penn this year, so we knew we had to be ready. Harvard freshman, Sam “Goldfinger” Goldberg, won his first match in the top 9. The underdog Ephs ladies also came out fighting and made sure the crimson women couldn’t take the match for granted. Like the match against Dartmouth, the crimson ladies had to keep their focus to pull it out.
The Crimson Women-
Gaining Steam Towards January
The women’s team members at numbers 10-16 get most of their competitive opportunities in exhibition play. They did get off to a good start with an official 9-0 win over BC in November. In the new year, they will play against Bates, Hamilton, Amherst and Wesleyan in the top 9 spots.
We are happy to report Sophomores Julianne Chu and Amanda Sobhy are both fully recovered from injuries. As always, the focus is on training intelligently and efficiently, to keep them healthy and in our lineup for the rest of the season.
The women’s first real tests are against Penn and Princeton, on Jan. 12 and 13. They are two of the top teams in the nation, and Penn has 5 much-talked about freshman. Some consider them to be the toughest challenger for the no.1 spot. The ladies will also be looking to prove their dominance over the Tigers, who have won 4 matches in each of the last two meetings.
Here is a nice little article from the Crimson on the Gemmell sisters, two of whom are in the top five on our team. Just last week, Laura was accepted to the Masters program for Clinical Embryology at Oxford University. Congrats, Laura!
The players are catching up on some much-needed sleep and training at home. In team meetings, we’ve mapped out the mental and physical preparations needed to get off the blocks quickly in the new year. The players are taking responsibility for their own training programs and to return to campus fit and sharp.
From December 15 to 18, Harvard hosted the 2013 US Junior Open. It continues to be the largest junior tournament in the world with over 800 players from 20 countries! US Squash has done a ton of work to grow this into one of the most prominent events on the world junior circuit. The level of squash was extremely high, and we are lucky to have so many talented players visiting our campus, especially since so many are strong students as well. Next year’s recruiting class will be among the most competitive ever!
In our next edition, we will recap Penn and Princeton matches and look ahead to the Friends of Harvard Squash Reception in New York City, taking place at the Harvard Club on January 26. We will also take a look at our two entrants in the Tournament of Champions: Amanda and Ali.
Many thanks for your support. We coaches wish you a happy holiday season! Enjoy the bubbly!
Mike Way, Gregory Lee 87′ and Russell Ball ’88 Endowed Coach for Squash at Harvard University– Profile
Reggie Schonborn, Assistant Coach- Profile
Luke Hammond, Assistant Coach- Profile