The men’s tennis team traveled to Cambridge, Mass., last weekend hoping to win the ECAC tournament. But the Elis returned to New Haven Monday without the trophy after suffering a beating in the finals at the hands of the Brown Bears.
“We were all disappointed after losing to Brown,” captain Chris Shackelton ’02 said. “But overall we had a good weekend.”
In their first round match, the No. 4 seeded Bulldogs demolished Colgate 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals, where they handily defeated the Penn Quakers 5-2.
But their biggest win of the weekend came in the semifinals. There the Elis pulled out a close 4-3 win over their Ivy rivals, the No. 1 seeded Harvard Crimson.
The Bulldogs gained a quick lead by winning two of three doubles matches.
The No. 1 doubles team of Steve Berke ’03 and Dustin West ’04 defeated Oliver Choo and Jonathan Chu 8-4 while sophomores Andrew Rosenfeld and David Goldman paired up to beat their opponents at the No. 3 position 8-6, thus securing the doubles point for Yale.
With the 1-0 lead, the Bulldogs headed into singles competition.
Shackelton and Rosenfeld both fell at the No. 3 and No. 5 singles slots, respectively, while, in the No. 6 position, Johnny Lu ’05 won his first set 6-4 against George Turner, but dropped the next two sets 6-3, 6-1.
Meanwhile, Berke pulled out his match against Harvard’s No. 1 singles player, William Lee, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5, as Goldman won 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 at the No. 2 slot.
The score was tied at 3-3 with one match remaining. All eyes turned to the No. 4 singles court where freshman Ryan Murphy was about to begin his third and final set.
After two closely contested sets, Murphy dominated Choo in the third, winning 6-1 to propel the Bulldog squad into the finals for the first time in over 17 years.
“He demonstrated an incredible amount of composure for a freshman,” Shackelton said. “Everyone who won in singles showed a lot of heart, coming back to win after dropping their first sets. And to do it at Harvard is huge.”
After their big win against the Crimson, the Bulldogs returned to the courts the next morning to take on No. 2 seed Brown.
“I think all of us had a bit of a letdown after the emotional high of beating Harvard,” said Goldman.
Berke and West proved too strong for Brown’s No. 1 doubles team as they won their match 8-2. But the other Bulldog duos were unable to overcome their opponents, and the Bears won the doubles point.
In singles, the Bears jumped out of the gate and won three straight matches to clinch the title 4-0.
“After we lost the doubles, we lost the momentum,” Berke said.
Although disappointed they did not win the championship, the Bulldogs recognize they still performed well over the weekend, advancing much further in the tournament than in years past.
“Not only is this the first time [head coach Alex Dorato] had a team in the final,” Shackelton said. “But it is much further than we have advanced in years past.”
Their domination of Colgate and Penn and upset win over Harvard demonstrate the strength and potential of the Eli squad.
“Our wins this weekend set the stage for what is to come this spring,” Goldman said. “We will contend for the Ivy title, and we know we can compete with any team on the national level.”
Berke and West will get a shot to beat some of the nation’s top players this weekend as they head to Stone Mountain, Ga., to play in the All-American Championships.
The Eli duo were Intercollegiate Tennis Association regional champions last fall and have high hopes for this weekend.
“We’re playing top-ten caliber tennis,” Berke said, noting that he and West didn’t lose a match at ECACs. “Dustin is serving really well and I think we have a good chance.”
Berke, who is ranked No. 41 in the nation in preseason polls, will also compete in singles, and his teammates are confident he will do well.
“Last year, Steve beat two seeds to make it to the quarterfinals of the NCAAs,” Shackelton said. “He has demonstrated he can compete with the nation’s best.”