For the men’s tennis team, yesterday’s match was hardly just another Ivy League face-off.
“In itself, the match was a fitting sendoff [for the seniors],” Rory Green ’08 said. “In the past, seeing the seniors lose their last match has been difficult. Chris [Lawler ’07] and Brandon [Wai ’07] have put a lot of time and effort into the team, and anything less than a win today would not have been good enough.”
Thankfully, the squad did not have to see off their seniors with a loss. Instead, the Bulldogs (9-11, 3-4 Ivy) wrapped up their season with a 5-2 victory over Ivy foe Brown (14-12, 1-6) in a home-court Senior Day triumph. The win puts them alone in the fifth place slot in the Ancient Eight — still a disappointing result after a valiant effort this season, Green said.
The match started out shakily for the Elis, as they dropped Nos. 1 and 2 doubles, 9-8 and 8-4, respectively. And although they picked up the match at the No. 3 level, 8-6, the two losses meant they ceded the doubles point, and the valuable momentum that comes along with it, to the Bears.
“Our doubles didn’t go quite as expected today,” Michael Caldwell ’09 said. “But Brown has good doubles, and we were maybe a bit flat starting out. We showed great resilience coming back strong in singles — for the past two years, our singles has been really strong, and we proved that again today. I still think we have one of the deepest teams in the Ivy League.”
Singles play was certainly one of the Bulldogs’ strengths as they fought back after the disappointing doubles loss, taking Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 singles in a series of close, hard-fought matches. Wai took his point at No. 1 singles, 7-6, 6-4, in a convincing straight-set win. Caldwell took down his No. 2 opponent, 7-6, 6-3, and No. 4 Green won his own match, 6-2, 7-6.
Those three were the only straight-set victories of the meeting. Connor Dawson ’10 dropped his first set, 6-7, before coming back and winning the No. 5 singles point with 6-4, 6-2 sets. And Matt Schimmel ’10 took the first set, 6-3, fell in the second, 3-6, and came back to wrap up the No. 6 point with a 6-4 win in the tiebreaker.
“It felt great to finish this season off with a win, especially since this was my last match,” Wai said. “It was great because I have never beaten Brown — it makes it that much sweeter. It’s too bad we didn’t win our close matches in the beginning of Ivy season, but we finished off strong, and that’s what counts.”
It may have been Wai’s last regular season match, but as defending Ivy League Player of the Year and a competitor in last year’s NCAA Tournament, there could still be more in store for him. The Tournament selection show — to be broadcast next Tuesday — will determine whether or not Wai, who went 6-1 in Ivy play this year, will receive a pass to compete.
For now, the Bulldogs are winding down after an “up-and-down” spring season, Caldwell said. Despite a less-than-perfect record, he said the team can’t have any regrets.
“For me personally, I’m very happy with my Ivy campaign, but college tennis is a team sport, and obviously I would have liked to win more as a team,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we fought out there as teammates, and we’ve always got each other’s backs. This is a great bunch of guys, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”