The men’s tennis team began its road to the Ivies with a rocky start last weekend, splitting its first two matches of conference play.
The Bulldogs (15–4, 1–1 Ivy) fell to the No. 51 Princeton Tigers 5–2 in the home opener of conference play at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on Saturday. They managed to turn the weekend around with a 7–0 sweep of the unranked Penn Quakers to record the Elis’ eighth shutout of the season.
“We played all right against Princeton, but definitely not our best,” Jason Brown ’16 said. “They were a tough matchup for us. I think we relaxed after Princeton and tried to enjoy the experience more, and it paid off, as we ended up playing our best match of the season the next day against Penn.”
In its first match of conference play, Yale dropped the doubles point and was not able to come back in singles to win the match. Princeton (14–4, 0–1 Ivy) handed Yale its first loss at home and ended the Bulldogs’ four-match winning streak. The Elis, who usually dominate the doubles, lost Saturday after falling at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots. The nationally ranked No. 74 veteran pair of team captain Daniel Hoffman ’13 and Marc Powers ’13 fell at No. 1 to the No. 33 pair of Zack McCourt and Matija Pecotic.
Singles play opened up in favor of the Bulldogs with a win by Powers at No. 2. However, the Tigers jumped ahead after Yale’s No. 1 player, John Huang ’13, fell 6–1, 6–4 in a hard-fought match to Pecotic, the No. 7 collegiate player in the nation. The other win for the Bulldogs came at No. 4 when rookie Martin Svenning ’16 won his first Ivy League match in extended sets 7–5, 7–5 over Princeton’s Matt Siow.
“We were disappointed with the loss to Princeton, but I was pleased with how we bounced back against Penn,” Hoffman said. “Princeton is a very good team, but I don’t think that we played our best tennis on Saturday, which is frustrating.”
One day later, the Elis had to rally to prepare for another Ancient Eight rival, the Quakers (8–8, 0–3 Ivy). In a change of pace from the day before, Yale was able to clinch the doubles point early on. Hoffman and Powers came out strong against Penn’s No. 1 team of Nikola Kocovic and Mark Milbrandt with an 8–6 win. This time, the No. 2 doubles team of Huang and Patrick Chase ’14 claimed the doubles point for Yale with an 8–5 win over Penn’s Austin Kaplan and Zack Katz.
In singles, there was no competition for the Elis. All six singles players won in straight sets. Svenning continued his winning streak with a win at No. 4 over Blaine Willenborg. Powers had to deal with a fight at No. 2 against Kocovic, but ended up coming out on top with a 6–2, 7–6 win. Hoffman, Huang, Brown and Zach Dean ’13 all put tallies up on the board for the Bulldogs to come out with a perfect sweep.
“It’s going to be much tougher going forward against some of the better teams, and we’re going to have to play and fight harder than we have all season in order to be successful,” Huang said. “This coming weekend will be especially tough playing at Cornell and Columbia in pretty hostile environments, and it’s our job to continue focusing on being the best we can be.”
The Elis will continue their Ivy League play next weekend against the No. 48 Cornell Big Red and the No. 40 Columbia Lions on the road.