Heading into its first Ivy League weekend, the men’s tennis team knew that many matches in the Ancient Eight would be decided by a single point. The Elis got a taste of this parity in two close contests against the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.
The No. 51 Bulldogs (14-2, 1-1) beat the Quakers 4-3 Friday but were unable to quiet the roar of the Tigers, losing 4-3 Saturday.
“We were all a little disappointed losing to Princeton,” David Goldman ’04 said. “But all we can do now is try to win the rest of our matches.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead against the Quakers by securing the doubles point with wins from the No. 2 team of Goldman and captain Greg Royce ’01 8-6 and the No. 3 team of Scott Carlton ’01 and Ryan Coyle ’02 8-5.
This lead proved to be essential when the Bulldogs began singles play against the Quakers. At one point in the afternoon, all four singles matches on court were extremely tight. Steve Berke ’03 won the first set of his No. 1 singles match 6-2 but was trailing 1-4 in the second. Royce and Goldman were both battling first-set tiebreakers at the No. 2 and No. 3 slots, respectively, while Carlton, in the No. 4 position, was trying to come back from losing the first set 6-1.
But the Bulldogs prevailed in three of these four matches. Berke won five straight games to win his match, and Royce prevailed in two tiebreakers that determined the match. Carlton fought back and won the second and third sets 7-6, 6-1.
After losing the first-set tiebreaker, Goldman was unable to hang on in his match and lost to Brian Barki 7-6, 6-1.
But the loss did not matter much to the Bulldogs, since the three singles wins had secured the victory. In order to save strength for the next day’s match, head coach Alex Dorato decided to have the remainder of his lineup play only one set.
Chris Shackelton ’02 and Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 both won 7-6 at the No. 5 and No. 6 positions, respectively, before retiring in their matches.
“Penn was a good team, and we needed to play well to win,” Royce said.
The next day the Elis returned to the courts to take on the fall regional champions from Princeton. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, this time around they came up one match short.
In doubles play, the No. 2 team of Royce and Goldman won 8-6, but the No. 3 pair of Carlton and Coyle lost 8-5. The split directed attention to the No. 1 match, where Berke and Dustin West ’04 were still battling their Princeton counterparts, the fall regional doubles champions. The Tigers overpowered the Eli duo in a tiebreaker and won the extended set 9-8, taking the doubles point from the Bulldogs for the first time this season.
Trailing 0-1, the Bulldogs needed to win four of the six singles matches, but they could muster only three against the tough Tiger squad.
Yale’s points came from Berke, who crushed Princeton’s top singles player Kyle Kliegerman 6-0, 6-1, and from Carlton and Goldman, who each defeated their opponents in close three-set matches at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, respectively.
“The team fought very well and competed with everything they had,” Royce said. “We just came up a little short.”
The loss to Princeton does not mean that the Elis are out of contention for the Ancient Eight title. Now, however, the Bulldogs must win their remaining five matches — and hope that Princeton and Harvard lose at least one match — in order to bring home an Ivy championship.
“If we concentrate on the upcoming matches and do well we still have a shot at it,” West said.
The Bulldogs do not have much time to dwell on the disappointing loss to Princeton. The Brown Bears come to town Tuesday, and the team anticipates a battle.
“We need to play well to win,” Royce said. “We can’t go in there feeling sorry for ourselves — good teams rebound well after a loss.”
The Bears are also 1-1 in Ivy play with a win over the Quakers 5-2 and a 4-3 loss to the Tigers this weekend.
The Bulldogs go hunting Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Weather permitting, the match will be held on the courts behind Smilow Field House.