As winter begins to loosen it grasp, the men’s tennis team will leave the warm confines of the Cullman Tennis Facility to return to the outdoor tennis courts at the Connecticut Tennis Center. As they head outdoors, the Bulldogs will look to improve on the team’s disappointing sixth-place Ivy League finish last year.

The squad, which plays year round except for a few weeks in December, has recorded three wins in the past 10 days against Colgate, Boston College and New Mexico — a team the Bulldogs had never previously beaten.

They will also be bolstered by the return of Steve Berke ’03, who is back with the Bulldogs after a year of playing professional events as an amateur.

Three singles and four doubles starters also return from last year’s squad, and the Elis will look to carry their early season success into the squad’s spring break training trip in Southern California.

The main goal of the trip is to make the transition from indoor to outdoor tennis. The team will play six matches — two more than last year’s trip — against the College of the Desert, University of Portland, Wisconsin, Northern Arizona, University of San Diego and San Diego State.

“Spring break is a good chance to start playing outdoors and play strong competition.” Scott Carlton ’01 said. “If we are as good as we think, we are we have a chance to beat some high-ranked teams like San Diego and San Diego State.”

Head coach Alex Dorato is confident in the Bulldogs’ chances.

“I believe we will have a very good year,” Dorato said. “We are not favored to win the Ivy League, but we are good enough to win it.”

Captain Greg Royce ’01 — a second-team All-Ivy selection — and Carlton, who played in the top two spots last year, lead the Bulldogs and will play in the two and three positions behind Berke. Dorato said Berke is good enough to beat any team’s number one player.

The Bulldogs also bring in a talented freshman class. David Goldman ’04, who was ranked No. 20 in the United States’ rankings last year among 18-year olds, plays in the number four spot. Along with Goldman, Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 will start for the Elis singles squad at the number six position.

Chris Shackelton ’02 holds the fifth singles spot. Shackelton played his way to the best Ivy League record on the team last year.

Berke and Ryan Coyle ’02 play on the top doubles team, which swept the tough New Mexico Lobos. Royce and Goldman will take the second double spot, with the combination of Carlton and Shackleton rounding out the pairs.

The depth of the team, as well as its mix of experience add weight to the Bulldogs’ title bid.

“Our line-up is very strong from top to bottom,” Dorato said.

Dorato said the Bulldogs’ main competition for the Ivy League title should come from the Princeton Tigers, Harvard Crimson and Columbia Lions.

Royce is confident that with the combination of senior-class leadership and overall team focus, the Bulldogs will make a strong run at the Ancient Eight crown.

“We can win Ivies this year if we take every match seriously and perform at a high level day in and day out,” Royce said. “I want the senior class to lead the team by example. I believe actions speak louder than words. Winning matters, talking about winning does not.”