Top-ranked Todd Harrity '13 continues to improve. "I think if I played myself from two years ago," he said, "I would beat him 3-0." (© Beverly Schaefer)
While many athletes wilt under the pressure of being ranked first in the country, sophomore Todd Harrity’s run through the college squash season has exemplified the dominance often associated with the number “one.” Harrity recently completed an undefeated team season as Princeton’s No. 1 player.
During that stretch, Harrity won all but two of his matches 3-0 and never had a match go to five games. As a result, he enters this weekend’s individual national tournament as the overwhelming favorite.
“He’s one of the two best American players at this age, ever,” senior co-captain Peter Sopher said. The other, 2006 Yale graduate Julian Illingworth, is the highest ranked American in professional squash history.
In November, Harrity traveled to the Pan-American Games in Guatemala as a member of the United States national team. While the team finished in third-place, Harrity used the experience to gain valuable insight about his game.
“[The tournament] was a big eye-opener,” Harrity said. “I learned a lot of little things about my game and technique I could improve. I think if I played myself from two years ago, I would beat him 3-0.”
Harrity demonstrated the major strides in his game during Princeton’s match against Trinity, the 13-time defending national champions. Though Trinity No. 1 Vikram Malhotra had played a number of close matches against Harrity in junior tournaments, Harrity breezed to a 3-0 win over Malhotra in early February.
“I came out of that match feeling really happy with myself and my game and feeling that I had really improved,” Harrity said. “I am a much more complete player than I was before.”
Sopher agrees with Harrity’s assessment. “Todd’s gotten a lot more aggressive,” Sopher said. “His attacking shots have gotten quicker and good enough that he can dictate play against people at a higher level.”
Of course, that spells bad news for the rest of the college squash world as Harrity starts his quest to become the first American in two decades to win the individual title. Illingworth entered college the same year as Egyptian-born Princeton great Yasser El Halaby ’06 and never won the individual tournament. As a freshman, Harrity lost to Harvard senior Colin West in the national final.
“The team’s confidence in Todd is as high as it could possibly be,” Sopher said. “Not only is he really good, he’s the model of consistency, and he plays such a risk free game that the only way to really beat him is if you’re better than him.”
So far this season, that’s a task no player in college squash has come close to achieving.