The men’s tennis team gave the new freshman class a taste of Ivy League competition, while the women’s team tested its mettle versus powerhouse state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech as both squads launched their seasons this past weekend.
Marc Powers ’13 and the freshman doubles team of Tommy Ratchford ’14 and Zachary Dean ’14 each reached the finals of their respective brackets in the Princeton-Farnsworth Invitational. Yale’s top three women posted strong performances at the Georgia Tech Invitational, while one of the highest-ranked recruiting classes in team history got its feet wet against formidable non-conference foes.
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The men’s tournament offered a preview of the season ahead, as it featured players from Ivy League rivals Princeton, Penn, Cornell and last year’s league champion Columbia. The Bulldogs entered players in five singles draws, A through E, and three doubles draws, with disparate results.
Powers, whose recent participation in the Pilot Pen Open gave him professional circuit experience, earned the top seed in Draw A. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year motored through his first three rounds without dropping a set. In the final, however, Powers’ dominance could not hold up as he fell to second seed Eddie Bourchier of Penn State, 6–3, 6–2.
While the Elis were unable to advance past the first round in draws C, D, or E, the doubles team of Ratchford and Dean offered a reason for optimism, advancing all the way to the finals of the C Doubles Draw, where they were ultimately bested by Buffalo’s doubles pair, 8–4.
Powers said he was confident that the freshmen could contribute come league play in the spring after a promising start.
“[They are] very raw, but very talented,” Powers said of the class of 2014. “[There were] a few tough matches [this weekend] where the freshmen showed a lot of heart.”
The women’s team faced competition of a much different nature against Georgia Tech and Georgia, teams that finished 15th and 18th in the nation last year, respectively, as well as Oklahoma State. Still, the Bulldog women held their own, relying on the strength of Vicky Brook ’12 and the fiery enthusiasm of the eighth-ranked recruiting class in the country.
Facing Georgia, the women’s team split the singles matches three and three, and lost the decisive doubles point. Blair Seideman ’14 had one of the most impressive performances of the match, winning handily in second flight singles by a score of 6–4, 6–2 in her first collegiate match play.
Seideman noted the difference in dynamic between her first event for the Elis and her time spent playing in the junior circuit.
“It gave me greater satisfaction to win for Yale, not just for myself,” Seideman said.
The squad took encouragement from what a narrow margin of defeat versus a tennis powerhouse like Georgia could mean for the season’s prospects.
“[The showing] proved that Yale tennis is tough enough to compete on the highest echelon of college tennis,” said Seideman, who arrived on campus as the eighth-ranked recruit in the nation.
Coming off the encouraging performance, the Bulldogs’ excitement was mitigated by a far-superior Georgia Tech squad.
Brook, playing in flight one, was the only victorious Yalie, surviving three grueling sets and holding off a match point to win 3–6, 7–5, 7–5.
Brook was quick to highlight the progress the up-and-comers have already made this season.
“The freshmen have absolutely become an integral part of our team already,” Brook said. “Their energy, enthusiasm and determination this weekend were second to none.”
Indeed, the team rebounded from the disappointing defeat to beat Oklahoma State four matches to three on the back of the freshman class. Competing in the fourth flight singles Kim Szokol ’14, won the crucial match when she beat her opponent in three sets to secure the overall victory for the bulldogs. Over the course of the weekend
“My teammates standing on the next court gave me confidence, as I was able to dig deep and force my opponent to miss on match point,” Szokol said.
The Bulldogs strength came at the top three spots over the course of the weekend, with Brook, Seideman and Elizabeth Epstein ’13 combining for a 7–2 singles record.
Going forward, players said the team is committed to winning the Ivy League Championship and finishing top-20 in the nation.
The women will head to Los Angeles Oct. 2 for the All-American Prequalifying tournament, and the men resume play Friday in the USTA Invitational in Flushing, N.Y.