A spirited effort by the Yale men’s tennis captain Brandon Wai ’07 displayed that a good leader and player thrives even away from home and without team support.
This past Thursday, some of the best tennis talent in the country gathered in Tulsa, Okla., to compete in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships. Even though Wai lost both his matches in the tournament, he exhibited resilience and excellent form. Wai lost his opening round match to UCLA’s Chris Sarupol, the No. 66 ranked player in the country 6-4, 6-2, and fell in the consolation match to No. 12 Ken Skupsi from Louisiana State 6-2, 6-4.
Wai said this was probably the biggest tournament of the fall for him.
“Even though I lost both matches, I wasn’t upset with the way I played,” he said. “I was playing at my best, and all the top players were competing here. I was in the main draw, and that was good.”
Head coach Alex Dorato traveled with Wai to Tulsa, as the rest of the team was not competing this weekend.
The team gets back into action this coming weekend at the Army Invitational in West Point, N.Y., where the Elis will square off against Empire State foes Cornell and Army. They will be without team captain Wai, who will not be competing in the Army Invitational due to restrictions by the NCAA on the total number of matches in which players can compete.
Wai will only compete with the rest of the team in the ITA Regional Championships in Philadelphia, Pa., starting Oct. 19, but he still plans to travel out to West Point to support his teammates.
“As a captain, he doesn’t have to travel, but he does, which is pretty remarkable,” Michael Caldwell ’09 said. “Having him along every weekend is definitely inspirational for us and makes the team morale a little higher as well.”
Players said the team has been practicing intensely, improving physical fitness and has been hitting the ball well.
“Everyone is working hard and looking good,” Wai said. “I don’t expect anything less from them. The team environment is awesome.”
Players could only agree with their captain about how well team chemistry has been working in the 2006 campaign so far.
“I think team atmosphere is great,” Caldwell said. “We are a pretty close team, probably one of the closest in Ivy League. We try hard, work hard but also have a good time.”
Several players said the Bulldogs’ focus was improving upon their doubles and that it was an area where players had potential.
“The team is starting to play better as the season is going on,” Tom Santoro ’09 said. “If we keep up the way we’re playing in the remaining tournaments of the seasons, we should be successful. We’re focusing on a lot of doubles-specific drills and on our fitness.”
In light of the teams recent improvement, Wai specially commended Caldwell, who won all three of his singles matches at last week’s ECAC Championships, Jeff Dawson ’09, who is getting into shape after early struggles and Chris Lawler ’07, referring to him as a “senior-savvy veteran.”
“[Lawler] has been our best doubles player as of this year,” Wai said. “He’s been playing very well and working hard. We’re looking to see him do some damage on the doubles court.”
The Bulldogs’ long term goal is winning the Ivy League title, and players are getting more and more convinced that this close-knit team might just stand a chance at the crown.