After a fall season filled with ups and downs, injuries and comebacks, and tight wins and tough losses, the Bulldogs entered their long winter break on a high note.
The Yale men’s tennis team traveled to Philadelphia this weekend to compete in the ITA Regional Championships. The Elis wrapped up the weekend with captain Brandon Wai ’07 and Michael Caldwell ’09 advancing to the round of 16 in singles. In their final tournament before kicking off Ivy League play in January, many of the Bulldogs put up valiant fights in their singles and doubles matches.
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Wai defeated George Washington’s No. 1 player, Mustafa Gencsoy, 6-4, 6-4, on Friday and Harvard’s Scott Denenberg, 6-3, 6-2, on Saturday, but ultimately fell to Penn State’s Brendan Lynch in his round of 16 matchup, 7-6, 7-5.
Wai said that even though he did not have a great finish, he felt that he played well through the weekend.
“My opponent [Brendan Lynch] just came up with the goods on the big points,” he said. “Time and time again he would come up with the big shot on a huge point. That’s how tennis is, though. If you run into a player who is on fire, there isn’t much you can do. I gave it my all out there, but ran into a player who played with no fear.”
Caldwell started off with a tough match against UMBC’s Ifran Shamasdin, but overcame him in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4. He beat Peter Capkovic, Princeton’s No. 1 player, 7-6, 6-3, to start Sunday on the right note but, like his captain, was eliminated by a Nittany Lion, Penn State’s Michael James, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
“I was very satisfied with my performance,” Caldwell said. “I wanted to have a big result and was able to do that by beating Peter Capkovic of Princeton. I was a little disappointed to lose after that, but I ran into a guy at the top of his game and lost a close match.”
Wai, ranked fiftieth overall in the nation, was seeded No. 1 in the tournament. The defending champion said he felt expectations were very high heading into the most important event of the fall.
“I’m not going to make any excuses, but I did feel a lot of pressure during this tournament,” Wai said. “Being the number one seed and defending champion definitely makes you the person to beat in the tournament — everyone is gunning for you. But my loss in this tournament is only going to benefit me in the long run. I am going to train hard in the offseason and come back in the spring rejuvenated and ready to play.”
On Saturday, Jeff Dawson ’09 lost to Cornell’s No. 1 player, Josh Raff, 6-4, 6-4, and Eli rookie Connor Dawson ’10 was defeated by the tournament’s sixth seed, Brown’s Dan Hanegby, 6-2, 7-5. Matt Schimmel ’10 lost to the No. 3 seed, Penn’s Jason Pinsky, 6-2, 6-1, in a closely fought match in which he played at a level Wai deemed a sign of “great things to come.” Rory Green ’08 was the earliest to fall out of the Yale contingent, dropping in a tough first round match, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4, to Penn’s Eric Riley.
In the doubles, Wai and Green, who were seeded No. 8 in the tournament, fell to Penn State’s Michael James and Adam Slagter, 8-3, after a first round bye. Jeff Dawson and Josh Lederman ’09 were defeated in a first-round match by Cornell’s Dan Brous and Rory Heggie, 8-5.
The Bulldogs do not have formal training for the remainder of the fall. Players said the team will probably take a week off and then resume hitting and continue workout regimens on their own. Connor Dawson said the team will continue to train hard for the rest of the winter to get ready for the spring.
“Throughout the fall, the team has continued to improve and played well this weekend,” Connor Dawson said. “I think our biggest strength is that we continue to improve and will do so throughout the winter and into the spring.”
Caldwell said the tournament served largely to reinforce the depth of the team.
“We’ve got a strong team that is very deep,” he said. “From this tournament, as with the entire fall, we know what we need to do to be competitive in the spring.”
About 350 miles north of the Penn campus, the Yale women’s tennis team competed in the East Regionals in Hanover, N.H., this weekend. The Elis put forward a strong performance, with Janet Kim ’09 advancing to the round of 16 in singles, where she was defeated by William and Mary’s Katarina Zoricic 6-1, 6-2. Christine Alford ’07 qualified for the singles draw but lost, 6-2, 6-4. In perhaps the Bulldogs’ most impressive victory, Kim and Jessica Rhee ’10 took down Princeton’s No. 1 duo to reach the doubles quarterfinals, where they eventually fell, 8-0.
“I thought overall it was a pretty good tournament with everyone playing as hard as they could,” Kim said. “For a lot of people, it was their first experience at the Regionals. Everyone, especially the freshmen, handled it pretty well. There were some matches where we could have played better. But in the long run, this tournament is going to help us focus on what we need to work on and show other areas where we need to improve.”
In doubles, Linsday Dashiell ’08 and Lilian Nguyen ’09 were defeated by the sixth-seeded doubles team, Harvard’s Preethi Mukundan and Laura Peterzan, 8-6. Sarah Lederhandler ’10 and Christine Alford ’07 fell to UMBC’s Pascaline Cette and Alice Chen, 8-5.