Braving high altitude and a host of key injuries, the men’s tennis team split a pair of matches in New Mexico last weekend against the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University.
Leaving Thursday, the Bulldogs (2-1) did not have much time to adjust to the dehydrating conditions in Albuquerque, N.M. by Friday’s match.
“We definitely would have liked to have more time to acclimate ourselves to the conditions,” captain Chris Shackelton ’02 said. “The University of New Mexico may be the toughest place in the country to play because of the altitude.”
But in their opening match, the Bulldogs fought through these conditions and recorded a major 4-3 victory against the New Mexico Lobos. The Lobos have been close to unbeatable on their home court, where Yale had never won.
“They are very strong at home,” Dorato said. “Although we beat them in a tight match last year, we had never beaten them on their court. This was one of the team’s best efforts.”
The Elis lost two out of the three doubles matches, and as a result, the doubles point. The only tandem to win was the No. 1 pairing of Steve Berke ’03 and Dustin West ’04.
But in the singles matches, the Bulldogs captured the momentum and a victory.
Berke, playing No. 1 singles as well, easily defeated Lobo Divan Coetzee, 6-2, 6-2. David Goldman ’04 won in straight sets in the No. 5 position. Ryan Murphy ’05 and Johnny Lu ’05 also won their matches and the four singles victories were enough to give the Bulldogs one of their biggest victories of the year.
“To beat UNM at their place is huge,” Shackelton said. “This means a lot for our team and our coach, who played for UNM. It was great to get the win for Coach Dorato in his home town, in front of his family and old coaches.”
Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs entered their match with the New Mexico State Aggies physically and mentally drained and with a hole in the lineup. Berke did not play due to a muscle he strained in his match on Friday against UNM.
“At the end of the second set I just overexerted myself,” Berke said. “I was exhausted from the altitude change, but was able to get through to the end of the match on adrenaline.”
As a result, head coach Alex Dorato was forced to move the Nos. 2 through 6 players up a spot in order to compensate and put West in the No. 6 position. Murphy, who was slowed by a stomach strain, played No. 1 singles in place of Berke.
“We were hurt and exhausted from the night before,” Dorato said. “Having finished our match against UNM at 9:30 Friday night, it was tough to come back and play at noon the next day.”
The Bulldogs started off the day with a strong showing in the doubles matches. The tandem of Ryan Coyle ’02 and Shackelton won a close pro set, 9-8, in the No. 1 doubles match. The Bulldogs took the second and third matches by scores of 8-6 and 8-5 to win the doubles point.
The singles matches did not go so well. In the No. 1 spot, Murphy was swept in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2. The Yale men lost five of the six singles matches to fall to the Aggies by a 5-2 aggregate. Andrew Rosenfeld ’03, who was also victorious in the No. 3 doubles, provided a bright spot by winning his singles match in straight sets 7-5, 6-2 in the No. 4 position.
The Elis are now in the middle of a two-week lay-off before hosting Sacred Heart and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst Feb. 16.
After the strong performance over the weekend, Yale will look to play strongly in upcoming non-conference and Ivy competition.
“I don’t think we’re favored [in the Ivy League],” Berke said. “Harvard and Brown are very strong, but I look for us to definitely be competitive.”