Despite a mediocre showing on its annual trip to Southern California this spring break, the men’s tennis team has good reason to feel confident heading into the Ivy League season.
A strong class of freshmen has made an immediate impact on a squad led by Ivy League Player of the Year Brandon Wai ’07. The Bulldogs are one of the deepest teams in the Ancient Eight and appear poised to make a strong run at the title. After going undefeated in the league last year, Wai will attempt to repeat his own outstanding play and lead the Elis toward a similar goal. Yale finished third in the Ivy League last year but returns four of its top six starters and has recruited three talented newcomers to fill remaining slots.
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Though Yale undoubtedly boasts a very capable squad this season, it is taking nothing for granted in this league of unparalleled depth and parity. At one point during the 2006 campaign, seven of the eight Ancient Eight teams were nationally ranked, and this season likely holds the prospect for more of the same Ivy success.
“Any team in the league could win the title,” Tom Santoro ’09 said. “We know that we can beat any team, but can also lose to any team. It’s all a matter of working hard and playing our best when it counts.”
The Bulldogs’ solid play over the break did not register in the win column. Yale was only able to come away with one victory against their Southern California foes, but the team gained valuable experience against some very strong competition.
“I think we did pretty well, even though we only won one dual match,” Santoro said. “The competition was better than most we will face in the Ivy League, and we were right there in most matches. It was definitely good preparation for league play.”
Yale began its trip by dropping a 4-3 heartbreaker at the hands of UC Irvine and was not able to recover the following day, coming up on the wrong side of a 6-1 decision against Pepperdine. The team registered its lone victory over UC Santa Barbara, only to follow with two more losses against San Diego and San Diego State. But the Elis’ record is not necessarily indicative of their level of play, as the team’s losses were hotly contested and a source of motivation for upcoming matches. Newcomer Connor Dawson ’10 was perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the trip, winning his first four singles matches over the break before losing a tough three-setter in the team’s final outing.
“We played pretty well for the most part,” Dawson said. “There were some ups and downs, and we didn’t put it all together for during any one match. We’re looking forward to being able to do that in the league.”
After dropping four of five matches on their West Coast trip, the Bulldogs look to get back on track before league play begins next Friday. Yale will host Stony Brook tonight and welcome Manhattan this weekend — two extremely winnable matches for the Elis.
“It’s very important to build some momentum this week,” Rory Green ’08 said. “We have to treat those matches very seriously and play as hard as we can. Winning isn’t the only objective, we have to make sure we’re performing the best we can.”