Harvard Squash at National Championship.
Before attending Harvard, I knew very little about the sport of squash. I’d heard the name, knew that some people, somewhere played it, but had never really spent much thought on it; that was before I met Saad. We connected over a common dorm, Holworthy, and right in the middle of sharing more about his background from Egypt, he casually mentioned squash. Little did I know that Saadeldin Aish was one of the top squash players in the entire world and was soon to be Harvard’s #1 court player. And thus, in my first week at Harvard, I came to know a bit more about the sport whose National Championships Harvard would later host.
Going into their match on February 8th, Harvard was undefeated, standing at 9-0; only Trinity stood in their way of 10-0. However, even after falling to Trinity for their first loss of the season, the Crimson rebounded well. They would go on to finish 13-2, foreshadowing the conclusion of their season, and ended the season with a perfect 7-0 record in the Ivy League. While this was more than enough to earn the Ivy League title, another test lay present in the National Championships this past weekend at Harvard.
The setup was nearly perfect; Harvard was set to face Trinity in the Championship game, and created an opportunity to “avenge” their previous loss. Saad started the match strong, sweeping their number 1, and initially Harvard appeared to be in the driver’s seat.
Harvard started off its journey with a dominant victory over Yale (8-1) in the semifinals at Murr Center. In consecutive matches, Harvard continued its journey with wins over Yale, and looked forward to Columbia for the quarterfinal match. This represented a strong rebound after their first loss of the season against Trinity. The matchup at Columbia was tougher, as the 2 seed and 3 seed battled for a chance to play in the National Title Game. This was their second matchup against Columbia, and for the second time, Harvard took the victory in a tight contest (5 – 4). This set the stage for Harvard’s game against Trinity this past weekend.
The game seemed to be going Harvard’s way; senior captain Devin McLaughlin remained undefeated at 13 – 0, and Sean Hughes also continued his winning streak to stay perfect (14 – 0). Trinity pushed back, however, took the lead and eventually won the match with a 5-4 victory. Saad is certain, regardless of the outcome, “The team has been amazing this year; they are a great bunch of guys and we get along very well. This helps give us the extra push in our matches.”
The matchup between the two teams already came with a loaded history; of the past 20 championships, Trinity has qualified for 19 of them. In total, Trinity has won 15 national titles. On the other hand, Harvard has won 31 National Team titles, including a 9-0 victory over Trinity in 2014. Meanwhile, Trinity took the title in 2015. The resulting matchup was one that almost seemed inevitable, as the Championship location returned to Harvard this year – in fact, Saad had alluded to this very possibility earlier this year. Although the end result wasn’t perfect, the Crimson still finished with a tremendous season, and have one last event remaining to look forward to – the individual championships in Dartmouth over the first weekend of March.
There is still much to look forward to in the world of Harvard squash, however: the number 1 ranked Women’s team will start the path to capture their third straight National Team Champion title this upcoming Friday (12PM, Squash TV). The upcoming match is against No. 8 ranked Columbia, who the Crimson recently defeated 9-0 earlier in February. For the second straight year, Harvard’s women’s squash won the Ivy League Championship (7-0 in conference), and is hoping to maintain several impressive streaks: (1) The team, along with 8 Crimson members are currently undefeated; (2) The team was ranked number 1 to start the year for the 7th straight year, and hopes to finish that way as well. We look forward to cheering the team on this weekend!
Tushar Dwivedi ([email protected]) is glad to finally understand the game!