Back-to-back sweeps and a steady climb in the NCAA rankings did not inflate the egos of the men’s tennis team this weekend. The Bulldogs (6-1) stayed poised and confident on the courts to hand the U.S. Military Academy (8-4) its third loss in a row.
Injuries to David Goldman ’04 and Dustin West ’04 caused a shuffle in the lineup, but it did not adversely affect the Eli game plan. The day commenced with the doubles round, a particular weakness for the Bulldogs.
“I think once we get to spring break and have a chance to work hard on our doubles, we will improve tremendously,” head coach Alex Dorato said.
There were not many chinks to be seen in Yale’s doubles armor on Saturday, though. The duo of Steve Berke ’03 and Ryan Murphy ’05 out-played Sonny Avichal and Jarret Skrobarcek 8-6. Army countered by taking the No. 2 doubles match 9-7. But the doubles point was quickly clinched by the tandem of Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 and Johnny Lu ’05 who won an impressive 8-4 match against Steven Srivastava and Josh Jones.
To open the singles portion of the game, nationally ranked No. 34 Berke received an unexpected challenge from Arnaldo Albornoz but edged out to win 6-2, 6-4. Albornoz, a solid baseline player, challenged Berke with strong ground strokes, an approach not employed by Berke’s previous competitors.
“My last several opponents all used the serve and volley strategy,” Berke said. “Thus I haven’t had a lot of points where there have been long rallies from the baseline.”
After losing the No. 2 doubles match with Ryan Coyle ’02, team captain Shackelton wrapped up his No. 3 singles match 6-1, 7-6. Rosenfield and Lu also joined the bandwagon, both winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.
Murphy, playing out of the No. 2 spot, faced an indefatigable competitor in Avichal who took the Bulldog to the brink. Murphy quickly rebounded, however, after dropping the second set to secure a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win. The sole singles loss of the day was Ben Woodhouse’s 6-4, 6-4 defeat by Jeff Lau.
The Bulldogs are elated after wins in the early portion of the spring season, but they are kept focused by Dorato who realizes that the meat of the schedule lies ahead.
“We are definitely not overconfident,” Dorato said. “Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Columbia are favored over us. However, we are good enough to beat anyone. We beat Harvard, the highest nationally ranked team in the league, at Harvard this fall which gives us the confidence that we can beat any team in the league if we are healthy and play up to our potential.”
The team does not have any alarming flaws to date and barring severe injuries to the top of the lineup, they are establishing themselves to be a powerful force in the East.
“I am putting a lot of pressure on myself this year to perform well. In fact, I expect nothing less than perfection every time I step on the court,” Berke said. “The pressure that I put on myself, however, doesn’t affect me in a negative fashion. I feel the more pressure the merrier.”
Yale will face Rutgers at home March 1 at 2:30.