Following a pair of tough losses last weekend at the ECAC Championships in Cambridge, Mass., the Yale men’s tennis team wants to move on and put the weekend’s events behind them.
After starting the season 3-0 with victories over South Carolina Upstate, Georgetown and Stony Brook, the Bulldogs struggled in Cambridge, where they lost to both Brown and Boston College.
On Saturday, the Elis, who were ranked No. 6 in the 10-team tournament, had their first encounter of the year with Ivy League competition as they faced No. 3 Brown. Although Yale lost, 5-2, the matches were actually closer than the result would seem to indicate, as two Yalies lost their matches in three sets and the Bulldogs lost their doubles point 2-1.
Captain Jeff Dawson ’09, who was playing in the first position, was one such player who had a tough loss. Dawson won his first set 6-3 but then lost his next two sets, 2-6 and 4-6, respectively. Michael Caldwell ’09 also lost his match after winning the first set, while Calvin Bennett ’11 and Joel Samaha ’12 both lost their matches after two sets.
Connor Dawson ’10 and Erik Blumenkranz ’12, who were placed in the third and sixth positions, respectively, both won their matches in three sets.
“They competed well under pressure when the matches got close,” Tom Santoro ’09 said. “I don’t think that there is really anything separating us from them. If we had played a bit better we could have beaten them.”
Caldwell added, “Brown is a team I feel we underestimated a bit, in part because we won very easily in the scrimmage we had with them a few weeks ago.”
Blumenkranz said he was satisfied with his singles performance, but after losing his doubles match, he feels the team’s doubles game needs more improving.
“We came out a little slow in the doubles point,” Blumenkranz said. “We can play better than that.”
The Bulldogs’ tough luck was heightened the next day, against No. 10 Boston College, as Yale fell 4-3.
Caldwell and Santoro both won their matches. And while the team also won the doubles point, it was not enough to eke out a victory. Of the four matches the Elis dropped, three of them came in three sets.
Jeff Dawson’s match was especially close. After losing the first set 7-5, Dawson came back to win the next set by the same margin. The final set then came down to the wire, as Dawson fell 6-7.
Although Dawson thought the weekend’s results were frustrating, he does not want to dwell on how the team could have fared.
“I was disappointed in my matches,” Dawson said. “Everybody was able to get themselves to the point in the match where they could win it, but things just didn’t fall in the right direction. It may have just been one of those weekends where you have to put it behind you and just move on from there.”
Despite this weekend’s stumbles, Dawson said he thinks that the team is on a good pace to challenge for the Ivy League title.
“For a team that’s been playing a lot, you’re always going to have your ups and downs,” he said. “We look forward to having another good couple weeks of practice. We’re excited for the Ivy League season because we have a very good team this year.”
Dawson said the team’s two freshmen, Samaha and Blumenkranz, will add a boost to the team as they continue to gain experience. Samaha and Blumenkranz have already been receiving consistent playing time, as both played singles and doubles matches this weekend.
In the coming weeks, the team hopes to finalize their doubles pairings and place an emphasis on practices, as the Elis prepare for their Ivy League matches, which begin in April. Until then, Yale will look to rebound this upcoming weekend, as the Elis host Navy and Army and then travel to the West Coast over spring break to face a half-dozen California schools.
“[We want to] get into a rhythm, play a lot of matches, and be playing our best tennis when the Ivy League season rolls around,” Dawson said.
And while the Bulldogs will probably not get a chance this year to redeem themselves against Boston College, they will have another stab at Brown — they will just have to wait until the last match of the regular season.