Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 28
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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HOLDING COURT: Todd Harrity chases down the ball in a match at the Jadwin Gym courts this winter for the Princeton University men’s squash team. Harrity enjoyed a superb freshman season for the Tigers, making it to the College Squash Association (CSA) individual finals, becoming the first freshman to do so since Tiger great Yasser El-Halaby in 2003. This week, Harrity has taken his game down under to play for the U.S. in the World University Games in Melbourne, Australia.

After Quick Rise in Debut Season for PU Men’s Squash, Harrity Is Taking Game Down Under for World Event

Bill Alden

Despite dominating the youth squash scene in the U.S. throughout high school, Todd Harrity felt some apprehension when he rose to the No. 1 spot last winter in his freshman season on the Princeton University men’s squash team.

“It was tough leading the team and playing at the top position,” said Harrity, the top-ranked U.S. boys’ U-19 player during the last three years at Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia.

“It was a big adjustment from high school. In college all of the matches were against really tough opponents. In high school, there were only one or two matches that I had to worry about. In college squash, I could lose any match. The stakes were higher and I had to be better prepared to play.”

Harrity took his game to a higher level, going 14-5 and making it to the College Squash Association (CSA) individual finals, becoming the first freshman to do so since Tiger great Yasser El-Halaby in 2003.

The Philadelphia native even surprised himself with his stirring run in the CSA tourney.

“I didn’t expect to make that final,” said Harrity, who fell to Harvard senior star Colin West in the championship match.

“I was really nervous going into the tournament. I was glad with how I handled it. I had some tough matches.”

This week, Harrity is facing some more tough matches as he plays for the U.S. in the World University Games in Melbourne, Australia.

“It’s really exciting to represent your country, it gives you extra motivation,” said Harrity. “When USA is on your back, it makes you feel special and important.”

The precocious Harrity has gotten off to a special start at the competition, winning his first two matches to advance to the semifinals where he will face Jens Schoor of Germany.

No matter how far Harrity goes in the draw, he is confident that the experience will help him grow as a player.

“Honestly I really don’t know what to expect; I haven’t played in this event before,” said Harrity, noting 17 countries will be taking part in the squash competition. “I am happy to be there. I want to have fun and play the very best I can.”

Harrity has been having fun with squash for many years, having taken up the game before he entered grade school.

“I started pretty young; I was four or five years old when I started hitting the ball around in our house,” recalled Harrity. “My parents belonged to Merion Cricket Club and they would play and I would tag along and watch.”

It didn’t take long before people were watching Harrity play as he won the U-13 national championship when he was 12.

“That was my first really big tournament win,” said Harrity. “From ages 8 to 12, I was playing squash, playing tennis in the summer, and doing travel hockey. I started taking squash a little more seriously after that.”

Harrity’s serious approach to the game led him to start entering competitions overseas.

“Playing international tournament really helps,” said Harrity. “In the U.S., squash dies in the summer. In Europe, there are a lot of tournaments and you are playing the best players from Egypt, Pakistan, and all over Europe.”

In making the choice to play college squash at Princeton, Harrity believed the program could help his game.

“The Princeton team is very close and there were a lot of good players to compete with,” said Harrity. “The Ivy League was a place where I could see myself playing and developing as a player.”

Princeton head coach Bob Callahan certainly liked the way Harrity developed over his freshman campaign.

“Todd showed that he belonged at No 1; he lost to only Baset [Chaudhry of Trinity] and Colin [West],” said Callahan. “He was raising the level of his play against better players. He learns quickly and he did better in successive matches against top players.”

Callahan points to Harrity’s mental toughness as the attribute that sets him apart as a player.

“He is a fabulous competitor; he is able to concentrate on the right things,” explained Callahan. “He can work himself out of trouble; doesn’t beat himself. He is disciplined and patient; he is not up and down with big shots and then misses.”

In Callahan’s view, Harrity has a good shot at winning the national title someday.

“He has the potential; he is one of the handful of guys who can win it,” said Callahan.

“As we have learned, you have to be good and lucky to win the national title. His game is continuing to grow in its variety. He is able to pressure and attack opponents. He is not relying on opponents to make mistakes but forcing them to make mistakes.”

For Harrity, his near miss in the national singles tournament could end up being a watershed moment.

“It gave me confidence; I realized that I am up there with the best players in the country,” said Harrity, who earned first-team All-America honors last season and was named as the Ivy League Rookie of the Year.

“I am looking to win it next year. One thing I worked at that got better and can still get better is my attacking. I was more aggressive. My defensive game was already pretty good, now my offensive game has improved.”

And you can bet that Harrity’s foes will be feeling plenty of apprehension when they face him next season.

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