Men’s tennis, streak now 4, wins at Army

Men’s tennis continued their winning streak Sunday, forcing Army into a retreat.

The men’s team (4-2) halted Army’s Black Knights (7-3) in West Point, N.Y., securing their four-straight win. The Bulldogs swept the doubles bracket, kick-starting the match with confidence they hoped to carry into singles, head coach Alex Dorato said.

“Doubles was excellent,” he said, “and it’s something we have been working on.”

Calvin Bennett ’11, usually a starting singles player, was restrained to the doubles bracket due to a muscle injury. Despite limited movement, Bennett and partner Josh Lederman ’09 narrowed their focus to a point-by-point level to win in a tiebreaker, 9-8 (5).

It was a signal of things to come.

Although the Bulldogs defeated the Army team both in a fall tournament and for the past three years, players said they were impressed with their opponents’ level of play.

“The singles matches were all fighters — so it wasn’t easy,” Mike Caldwell ’09 said.

Dawson and Caldwell, who Dorato said are evenly matched right now, have been swapping the top two positions in the lineup. Captain Rory Green ’08 said Dawson, who played at No. 1 Sunday, has improved tremendously and has been playing strong tennis.

“But he has another couple of levels within him this season,” Green said.

After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Dawson struggled in the second, forcing him and Army’s Phil Muhawi into a deciding third set. Dawson lost, after three hours of play, in a final tiebreaker, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-7 (3).

“Both players were cramping at the end,” Dorato said. “They really played hard.”

At No. 2, Caldwell said he started slow — “with my back against the wall” — but managed to find his rhythm in the second set. He won, after a strenuous two hours and 45 minutes, in a third set, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

“Things started to click in the third,” Caldwell said. “Sometimes it’s frustrating when you don’t start fast, but a hard-fought victory is sometimes sweeter.”

In the meantime, Green and Connor Dawson ’10 picked up wins at No. 3 and 4 singles, respectively, securing a solid 3-0 advantage over the Black Knights with the remaining four singles matches still in play.

“Rory was amazing,” Caldwell said, commending Green’s 6-0, 6-4 victory. “I think he was done with his first set before most of us had played three games.”

At No. 5, Matt Schimmel ’10 lost, 7-6 (4), 6-1, and Tom Santoro ’09 was edged out, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, at No. 6.

Santoro said that although he felt he performed well in the third set, he missed a few key opportunities near the end.

“Tom and Matt didn’t play their best,” Dorato said.

The coach said he felt very good about the match overall. Caldwell agreed: “I’m very happy with the way the team competed: Everyone was tenacious and showed a lot of heart out there.”

Over spring break, the Elis will travel to California and Idaho, where they will be playing what Dorato called “a particularly tough schedule” of matches to prepare them for Ivy League play in March.

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