Men’s squash returned to Harvard to compete in the ‘B’ draw of the College Squash Association (CSA) men’s team nationals for its last tournament of the season. The tournament-style play pitted the third-seeded Ephs against three opponents in three days, resulting in a marathon weekend that featured some of the most spectacular individual performances of the season. The men took third in the competition, dominating Middlebury and Brown but falling short against perennial rival Penn. Western Ontario defeated Penn in the finals to take home the ‘B’ division title, while Trinity claimed victory in the ‘A’ division over the squad from Yale. With the third-place finish, the men secured an end-of-season rank of 11th in the nation.
The Sunday matchup against Brown marked the final match for the men, who were determined to leave with a victory in order to earn third place. Jared Zuckerman ’12 and Jack Ervasti ’13 cruised to early wins, setting the tempo for subsequent victories by Nick Marks ’13, Andy Maruca ’14 and Alec Greaves-Tunnell ’13. Taylor Foehl ’14 shut down his opponent’s comeback run with an 11-6 win in the fifth. With the bottom matches concluded, the one and two slot matches were left to punctuate the men’s victory. Co-captain Will Gruner ’11 gave a whirlwind performance at number two to dismiss his opponent in three fast-paced games, while Will Morris ’12 at number one climbed steadily back from two games down to bury his opponent.
Williams entered nationals hoping to redeem a 5-4 regular season loss against Penn in Philadelphia on Jan. 15 and was granted that opportunity in the semifinals. The first round of play saw Zuckerman and co-captain Jeremy Herrmann ’12 fall in intense battles. Ervasti gave a monumental performance, prevailing against Trevor McGuinness, a two-time junior national champion, in five thrilling games. Trailing 2-1 after the initial clash, the Ephs looked to the second round to even the score. Maruca gave a spirited display at No. 8, but fell in four games. Foehl forced his opponent to a fifth but was ultimately unsuccessful. Gruner’s opponent succumbed to injury, allowing Gruner to secure a crucial four-game victory for his team.
Despite their best efforts, the men found themselves down 4-2 as the last three Ephs took the court. Morris, Marks and Greaves-Tunnell all pushed their opponents past three games. However, their combined efforts could not keep Penn from victory. Morris took the first game and battled through two close losses before falling in the fourth game. Marks again pushed his match to five games, but victory eluded him in the final push. Greaves-Tunnell, facing a two-game deficit, clawed his way back with a win in the third game. He saved four match balls in the fourth game and staved off a match ball in the fifth to take a 13-11 victory, defeating his Penn opponent 3-2. Despite the gritty victory, the men lost to Penn 6-3.
“We were so close to beating Penn once again,” Head Coach Zafi Levy said. “But [we] came up short at the end of the match.”
Friday’s quarterfinal draw featured a matchup against Middlebury. The Ephs wasted no time in securing an insurmountable lead over the Panthers. Zuckerman and Ervasti won in a close but confident three games, while Herrmann had a merciless four-game win at number three. Maruca fell in the second round after three incredibly close games, but his loss was quickly avenged by Foehl. Greaves-Tunnell and Gruner followed Foehl’s victory with wins. Marks and Morris gave standout performances, each Eph battling to wins in lengthy five-game matches. Morris traded games with his opponent in the number one spot, fighting to an 11-8 win in the fifth game. Marks made a remarkable comeback from two games down, saving a match ball in the fourth en route to a gritty win that capped the Ephs’ 8-1 rout of the Panthers.
“The boys played amazingly all weekend long,” Levy said. “Our seniors were tremendous – Will Gruner and Jeremy Herrmann led the boys to an impressive season. We looked stronger week after week. I will hate to see them graduate.”
A subset of the team will compete in the CSA Individual Championships on March 4-6 at Dartmouth. The roster for the event has not yet been announced.