This fall, the past has been an indicator for what the future holds for the men’s tennis team.
Similar to previous tournaments, the Elis showed resilience and adaptation in bouncing back from rough spots and injuries to show that they can be down but not out. In this weekend’s Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Men’s Tennis Invitational, the Bulldogs redeemed themselves after a loss to Columbia, coming back to beat Cornell, 4-3, to finish fifth in the overall standings. The Elis, ranked fourth in the season’s first team-play tournament, defeated St. Bonaventure, 7-0, Friday and fell to Columbia, 5-2, Saturday. The Championships, held at the USTA Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY, were won by Penn for the second year in a row.
Even though they ended on a positive note, some players said they felt the team could have performed better.
“The team isn’t satisfied with the result,” Rory Green ’08 said. “We wanted to win the tournament, and it was certainly a possibility. We beat Columbia twice last year, quite comfortably each time, and so it was disappointing to go down to them.”
Brandon Wai ’07 and Michael Caldwell ’09 were the only two undefeated Bulldogs in the tournament. Green said Caldwell’s performances against Columbia and Cornell showed his “virtuoso.” Caldwell said he was satisfied with his performance.
“I was extremely happy with my effort,” he said. “To win all three singles matches and two out of three doubles was a very successful effort in my opinion. I was especially happy with how I was able to come back in the third set against Nick Brunner from Cornell because that provided a much-needed win for the team.”
Caldwell, the Bulldogs’ No. 2 singles player, beat Brunner, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.
Wai, the Elis’ captain, returned to play after missing last weekend’s Princeton/Farnsworth Invitational to beat Alejandro Nery of St. Bonaventure University, 6-2, 6-1, in straight sets.
Several players said they were pleased with Wai’s performance. Caldwell said the team held its confidence in Wai even when he dropped a set to Cornell’s Josh Raff. Wai eventually defeated Raff, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1. Wai also defeated the Lions’ Mark Clemente, a first team All-Ivy selection last year, 6-0, 6-0.
“[Wai] did a fantastic job adapting to team play, as he always does,” Josh Lederman ’09 said. “The team had to deal with a flurry of changing weather patterns which altered our location of play. Although the competition was fierce, I think we did a good job adapting to the tough conditions.”
Players said the team and especially the freshmen were enthusiastic about the tournament, even though it was away from home. But Lawler, who won two out of his three doubles matches this weekend, said the Bulldogs look forward to continued support from Eli fans.
“The team struggled with competing away from our extensive fan base here at Yale, who we heavily rely on for emotional stability,” Lawler said. “The team and our fans are anxiously looking forward to the spring when we face our most daunting competitors in the Yale arena.”
Connor Dawson ’10 said the team’s focus was to get ready for the spring and will continue to be so. The fall is mainly for individual competitions, while the spring features the dash for the Ivy League championship.
The team has been working hard on physical strength and endurance all fall and intends to continue working on hitting the ball deep in the court. Several players said the team needs to work on its doubles skills.
“We will now focus on the things we learned from this weekend, train hard and prepare mentally for our next task,” Caldwell said. “We learned that we need to continue to sharpen our doubles skills, but that we have the materials and the abilities as a team to compete at the highest level in the Ivy League. We’ve seen our competition and know how we stack up against them, and we’re confident we can be right there with them in the spring.”