The men’s tennis team may have lost its first match of the season but, in the words of Jeff Dawson ’09, it “got their competitive juices flowing.”
Friday night at Tennis Central in Woodbridge, Conn., where the Bulldogs have been playing because of the renovation of Yale’s on-campus indoor courts, the team lost to the Red Storm of St. John’s University, 5-2. Women’s tennis returned from a weekend in Pennsylvania with a loss against Marshall, 5-2, Saturday and a reciprocal win, 5-2, against Penn State on Sunday.
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With two key players injured — Connor Dawson ’10, who had a knee injury, and Calvin Bennett ’11, whose shoulder injury confined him to doubles play only — the men’s team had to adjust to a different line-up.
“In singles we were missing two starters, but in doubles we only had one non-starter, Jordan Abergel [’11], who played well,” captain Rory Green ’08 said. “I feel that we would beat that team with a full line-up.”
“It was too bad some of our guys were injured but good that some of our new guys got to play,” Jeff Dawson ’09 added.
Coach Alex Dorato said the team has focused on doubles play during recent practices, but out of three doubles matches Friday, Green and Bennett came away with the Elis’ only win, handing their opponents an 8-3 defeat. Their teamwork and impressive net play won them point after point; an untouchable backhand volley by Bennett at the net elicited cheers from onlooking teammates.
Despite having lost the doubles point, the Bulldogs remained optimistic about their chances for singles. Players from St. John’s, a team made up entirely of international students, admitted they were wary about the outcome.
“I think it’s a pretty even matchup,” St. John’s junior Jordan Talbot said as he watched the first four singles matches begin.
“Yeah, but that big guy is going to give our guy some trouble,” said sophomore Derek Wallensteen, referring to Bulldog No. 1 Mike Caldwell ’09. “He’s tough.”
Despite Caldwell’s accurate backspin drop-shots and net-skimming backhands, he fell to Russian Artem Vlasenko in straight sets, 2-6, 4-6.
Dawson and Green contributed the only points to the Eli score in their singles matches. Dawson played his strengths to his opponent’s weaknesses to earn an easy 6-1, 6-0 victory over Alex Svetlakov, whose coach could be heard yelling, “Patience! No rush!” from the sidelines. After dropping the first set, Green fought back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 triumph over opponent Asaf Honig.
Matt Schimmel ’10 accepted defeat in a hard-fought three-set match — one marked by his opponent’s throwing his racquet after the first set and later interrupting play to nurse an injured ankle — losing 6-4, 1-6, 4-6.
The Bulldogs’ Tom Santoro lost at No. 5 singles, 0-6, 2-6, and Ryan Berman ’11, starting for the first time, lost a shortened match, 6-4, 4-6, 0-1 (2), at No. 6.
Green commented after the match that the team had played at a mediocre level and said he hopes to bounce back as the players travel to South Carolina to take on Furman University and Wofford College this weekend.
“It was only a matter of a couple key points,” Dawson said. “The matches we lost were close. It’s a testament to our competitiveness. … We just need to get grooved for the season.”
Over the weekend, the women’s tennis team rebounded from a loss against No. 50 Marshall on Saturday to win Sunday against Penn State in State College, Pa.
Against the Thundering Herd of Marshall, to whom the Bulldogs suffered a 5-2 loss, Jessica Rhee ’10 and Lindsay Clark ’11 contributed the only of Yale’s points. Rhee won at No. 2 singles, 6-3, 6-4, and Clark edged past her opponent at No. 5 with a 7-5, 6-4 decision.
Freshmen Stevi Petrelli and Lauren Ritz each traded games with their opponents, losing in three-set matches.
In doubles action, the No. 1 match hinged on a few key points, as Bulldogs Clark and Ritz, who are currently ranked No. 50 in the country, were topped by the their No. 15-ranked opponents, losing 9-8. A win at No. 2 doubles and a subsequent loss at No. 3 added up to a Bulldog deficit in the doubles point.
The following day, the women’s team bounced back to challenge the Nittany Lions of Penn State, winning decisively, 5-2. The Eli ladies started strong, easily securing the doubles point with dual 8-4 wins at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots.
At No. 1 singles, Janet Kim ’09 glided to victory after dropping the first set, ending with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 decision.
Rhee, Sarah Lederhandler ’10 and Clark also contributed wins. Lederhandler’s back-and-forth match ended after three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, and Clark’s first set culminated with an authoritative tiebreak, 7-6 (2), 6-4.
Captain Lilian Nguyen ’09 said she is proud the team was able to rebound so strongly after Saturday’s loss.
“Penn State was a tough match that we could have lost,” she said. “But we played well.”
She lauded Lederhandler, who fought through pain to secure a difficult three-set match.
The weekend brought the women’s team to 2-1 on the season, whose members will return to the courts Feb. 23, when they travel to Boston College.