Proving the old adage “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you played the game,” the men’s tennis team finished its spring break trip not with wins under its belt, but with valuable playing experience.
Falling to six out of seven opponents — Yale’s lone win came against nationally ranked No. 75 University of Denver — the Bulldogs certainly did not whiff each match that they played over break in Southern California. Close scores reflect strong playing on the part of the Elis, who battled against some of the top ranked teams in the country.
“I think it’s important that with each match we played better and with more intensity and better overall quality,” No. 5 singles player Milosz Gudzowski ’06 said. “Improvement was really our goal, and we really improved.”
Formerly ranked No. 71 in the nation, Yale fell out of the standings after losing some of the California matches, but is optimistic about regaining it as the season progresses.
“I would like to have had more wins, but the good thing is that I think with each match we’ve been playing better and better,” Yale head coach Alex Dorato said. “That’s what we want to get from the trip, so come Ivy League season, we’re at our best.”
Some Elis found acclimating themselves to playing outdoors to be as difficult as the squads they faced.
“A lot of teams here are used to playing outdoors,” Neil Tolaney ’04 said. “There’s been adjustment period for us. We were losing matches very closely [as a team], and they’ve been coming down to a couple [individual] matches. We’ve definitely had opportunities.”
Dorato noted that some players took longer to warm up to the California trip, but managed to help the team later on.
“Andrew Rosenfeld [No. 2 singles] has been up and down,” Dorato said. “But his playing has gotten a lot better over the course of the trip.”
Some of Yale’s exceptional playing came from Ryan Murphy ’05 at No. 1 singles. Winning three out of his seven matches, Murphy played some of the top seeded players in the nation. Murphy lost a three-set battle to No. 89 Chris Wettengel of the No. 39 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (6-3, 4-6, 2-6), and defeated Denver’s No. 97 Nejc Smole in another three-setter (3-6, 6-3, 6-3).
“Ryan at one has won a couple,” Dorato said. “Even the guys he’s losing to, he’s losing to in very close three-set matches … he’s playing well.”
Some of Yale’s younger players contributed immensely to the team over break. Gudzowski, recovering from a sprained ankle (without complaining, teammates mentioned), won six matches at No. 5 singles.
“I thought I played well,” Gudzowski said. “I had good results.”
The highlight of the trip for the Bulldogs was clearly their 6-1 victory over Denver. The Bulldogs won all six singles matches and one doubles match — Rosenfeld and Reynolds crushed their opponents 8-2.
“It was definitely our best match in that everyone played well on the same day,” Dorato said.
Not only did the match show that the Elis have a fighting chance for a ranked spot, but it also raised the team’s morale.
“I think against Denver it was good that we were able to win all of the singles matches,” Tolaney said. “It was a highlight for us and a big confidence booster because they’re a ranked team. We were able to come out and put it all together after losing the doubles point.”
Dorato often veered away from his regular lineup, playing Tolaney in the No. 6 singles spot in place of Johnny Lu ’05 and moving Lu to No. 3 doubles with Tolaney. The change worked. Tolaney was able to pick up at win in his new singles position in the beneficial Denver match.
Even though the road trip may not have been the best for the Elis’ ranking and record, the players feel they have improved immensely over the two weeks and will fair well in the Ivy season, which starts next month.
“We’re playing our best right now,” Dorato said. “If we’re playing this well on the road I think we’ll be ever better at home.”