Playing without two of its leaders, the men’s tennis team displayed its depth and resolve this past week, coming away with back-to-back victories in its final two matches before the start of Ivy League play.
The Bulldogs (6-7, 0-0 Ivy) had a dominating performance against Stony Brook (4-7) in their first match back home after spring break, crushing the Seawolves 6-1 without the assistance of reigning Ivy League Player of the Year Brandon Wai ’07 or Rory Green ’08. The Elis followed it up with a tight 4-3 victory over Manhattan (1-5) on Saturday, celebrating Green’s return and building important momentum heading into the Ancient Eight season. Neither Wai’s elbow soreness nor Green’s back injury appear to be serious, and both are expected to play this weekend against Penn and Princeton.
“I got some treatment during the week and my back is feeling pretty good now,” Green said. “Manhattan was a very tough match, but physically I felt fine. I’m going to be 100 percent for this weekend.”
After dropping four of five tough matches during their West Coast trip, the Bulldogs received a much-needed lift before entering the most important stretch of their season. The team’s renewed sense of urgency was evident, as they rolled over Stony Brook, capturing all three doubles matches and losing only one singles match. Michael Caldwell ’09, who filled in for Wai, showed he could hold down the fort in the captain’s absence, registering a 6-4, 6-4 victory at No. 1 singles.
“This match definitely helped our confidence,” said Tom Santoro ’09, who posted a 6-0, 6-0 shutout at No. 6 singles. “Missing Brandon and Rory, I think we really showed just how deep our team is and that we can really step it up. We’re ready to go for the Ivy League season if we keep playing as well as we have been.”
Hosting another set of New Yorkers on Saturday, Yale was determined to finish its non-conference schedule on a positive note against Manhattan. Though they emerged victorious in only three of the six hard-fought singles matches against the Jaspers, the Bulldogs swept the all three doubles to seize their second consecutive win. In singles play, No. 2 Jeff Dawson ’09 and No. 3 Green rolled to victory in straight sets, while Josh Lederman ’09 pulled out a three-setter in style, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.
As the Elis begin Ivy League play, they will likely experience a significant increase in the level of competition. The Ancient Eight is a perennially difficult league, and this year appears to be no exception. The Bulldogs kick off this weekend playing host to Penn (7-11, 1-0), which is coming fresh off a 5-2 triumph over Yale’s next opponent, Princeton (7-5, 0-1). Both Penn, last year’s Ivy League co-champion and Princeton, currently ranked No. 65 nationally, certainly have the potential to cause significant problems for the Elis.
“It’s the same as every other year, these are two very, very tough teams,” Green said. “But in order to give ourselves a chance at the title, we gotta beat those guys. It’s no secret, we know it’s going to require a lot of fight and a lot of heart. You can’t improve on the day of the match, you just gotta go out and perform.”
Team members said playing difficult opponents at home is a considerable advantage, and they are excited about the prospect of kicking off their season at the Cullman Center.
“It makes a big difference playing at home,” Matt Shimmel ’10 said. “You have better timing and know how fast the courts are. You have a big mental edge.”