After last Saturday’s loss to Princeton, the men’s tennis team (15-2, 2-1 Ivy) recognized it had to defeat every remaining Ivy League opponent in order to still have a shot at winning the Ancient Eight title. Yesterday afternoon, the team kept its dream alive as it shot down the Brown Bears 5-2.
“It was really important to rebound after last weekend’s disappointing loss,” team captain Greg Royce ’01 said. “We could have walked out there with our heads hanging low and lost — and in that scenario, the title would definitely be out of reach.”
In such a competitive league, where many matches and even the Ivy championship will probably be determined by one point, winning the doubles is crucial. It means that the team that secures the doubles point only has to win half of the singles matches to succeed.
“We lost the doubles point against Princeton and I think that as a result everyone’s confidence dropped a little for the singles,” Scott Carlton ’01 said. “The doubles can determine the match.”
Yesterday the Bulldogs walked onto the courts prepared to forget last week’s glitch and win the critical doubles point awarded to the team that wins at least two of the three doubles matches.
But it wasn’t going to be easy. The Brown team, which beat Yale last year 6-1, swept all three doubles matches against Princeton last weekend.
Steve Berke ’03 paired up with Dustin West ’04 to win 8-4 at No. 1 doubles, but Royce and teammate David Goldman ’04 were unable to wear down their No. 2 opponents and lost 8-4.
All eyes then turned to the No. 3 doubles match where Carlton and Ryan Coyle ’02 were tied 6-6 with their Brown counterparts. After breaking their opponents, Coyle served it out to win 8-6 and clinched a 1-0 Bulldog lead.
The Elis entered the singles competition with momentum from their doubles victory behind them and won four of six singles matches to beat the Bears by a convincing margin.
Yale’s top singles player, Berke, was first off the court after overpowering his opponent 6-1, 6-2. Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 also quelled his No. 6 singles competitor 6-4, 6-3. Rounding out the remaining wins of the day were Carlton and Chris Shackelton ’02 at the No. 3 and No. 5 slots, respectively. Both won in three sets.
Royce also battled through three sets against his No. 2 singles opponent, but came up short and lost 6-2 in the third. Goldman also lost his No. 4 singles match 7-5, 6-1.
“Everyone fought really hard out there today and played well, demonstrating that we definitely still have a shot at the Ivy title,” Royce said.
But in order to keep its chances alive, the team will have to perform well again this weekend when it travels to New York to take on Columbia and Cornell.
And to make matters worse, both schools are notoriously unfriendly to visiting tennis squads.
“Columbia plays on indoor clay courts, which gives them a huge home-court advantage, and the court layout at Cornell solicits heckling from a crowd including many drunk fraternity fans,” Coyle said. “They are two difficult teams to play away.”
While the Bulldogs are favored to beat the Big Red, Berke will confront what many consider his toughest Ivy competitor. Cornell’s top singles player, Mike Halperin, was undefeated in the league last year and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
Still, Berke’s teammates remain confident in his abilities.
“Steve won’t lose,” Gabe Goldstein ’02 said. “It’ll just be interesting to see how many games his opponent can get from him.”
Columbia is a tougher, more challenging squad overall than Cornell. The Lions left Cambridge last weekend with a narrow 4-3 loss at the hands of Harvard, which sits atop the League with Princeton, each enjoying a 2-0 Ivy record.
“[Columbia has] a deep team and every single player on [our] team needs to step up in order to win,” Berke said.
In preparation for this tough match, the Elis will practice at a local indoor clay facility Thursday night before heading to Columbia the following morning.
“Clay is much different than hard courts,” Carlton said. “We will need to adjust well to their courts in order to beat a team that practices on clay everyday.”