The Cullman Tennis Facility was full of edge-of-your-seat excitement yesterday afternoon when the men’s tennis team defeated the Lobos of New Mexico — for the first time in their nine-year rivalry — by a score of 4-3.
“In my mind, this was really our first match of the season and we are all very excited that we won,” captain Greg Royce ’01 said. The Lobos displayed a level of tennis that the Elis expect from their Ivy League competition later in the season.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a small but momentum-building lead when they swept the doubles matches 3-0 to secure a 1-0 lead.
Steve Berke ’03 and Ryan Coyle ’02 paired up at the No. 1 position to crush their Lobo opponents 8-0. Royce and his partner David Goldman ’04 came from behind to win 9-7 at No. 2 as Scott Carlton ’01 and Chris Shackelton ’02 won their No. 3 match comfortably, 8-5.
“It was definitely nice to win the doubles point,” Coyle said. “By winning all three matches, we definitely gained some confidence for the singles.”
The Elis’ increased their score to 2-0 when Goldman defeated junior Diego Garza 6-2, 6-4 at the No. 4 singles position. But this lead was short-lived, for the Lobos came back to tie it up at 2-2.
Royce and Carlton both fell to their No. 2 and No. 3 singles opponents in close two-set matches. Royce fell 6-3, 6-4, while Carlton lost 7-6, 6-4.
Three matches remained, and each team needed to win at least two of them to secure a victory.
Berke, playing at No. 1, won his first set in a tiebreaker, dropped the second 1-6, and battled through a third. At 3-3, Berke, who has been suffering from a pulled groin muscle, fought off a break point and then asked for a five-minute injury timeout.
The Elis never thought Berke would withdraw from the match, but his obvious pain gave them a scare. Berke mustered what strength he had left but lost in a third-set tiebreaker, giving the Lobos a 3-2 edge.
At No. 5 singles, Shackelton also battled through an intense match. When Berke left the court, Shackelton had one set under his belt but was losing 1-4 in the second. A third set was looming.
“At that point, I knew it was it going to come down to one match and I needed to win to keep our chances alive,” Shackelton said.
Shackelton prevailed 6-3 in the third, evening the dual score at 3-3, leaving one last match on court to determine it all — No. 6 singles played by freshman Andrew Rosenfeld.
When Shackelton got off the court, Rosenfeld was just beginning his third set. After winning the first 6-3, Rosenfeld lost the second in a close tiebreaker.
“I wasn’t too nervous,” Rosenfeld said. “I knew that I was the better player and that if I played my game, and kept attacking and putting pressure on, I would win.”
Rosenfeld exchanged service breaks with his opponent and found himself on serve down 5-4 in the final set. The freshman held off a match point with a huge serve and broke his opponent in the next game to jump to a 6-5 lead and serve for the match.
Five match points and one controversial overrule by the umpire later, Rosenfeld won. His teammates, who throughout the match had been cheering loudly and pacing nervously, stormed his court to celebrate their enormous victory.
“We were all thrilled,” Royce said of the match’s conclusion. “It meant a lot to us to beat New Mexico on home courts — now we have to be careful not let our guard down [against Army].”
Yale next takes on the dangerous Black Knights this Saturday in West Point, N.Y.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”20778″ ]