The men’s tennis team is starting to make a name for itself in the Ivy League this season.
After hard losses on the road to Pennsylvania and Princeton two weekends ago, the Bulldogs came back in a home doubleheader to defeat Cornell and Columbia, 4-3 and 5-2, respectively. Battling it out under the New Haven sun Friday and Saturday, the Elis played at a high level to pull through two difficult matches.
“I was very happy [with our level of playing],” Yale head coach Alex Dorato said. “[It] wasn’t perfect, but I was very happy that we played well enough to win on Friday; and on Saturday, I thought we played very well.”
Defeating nationally ranked No. 72 Cornell was an especially gratifying win for the Bulldog seniors, who had not yet beaten Cornell during their time here. After barely losing the doubles point to Cornell, the future of the match looked dubious for the Bulldogs. With three victories in singles matches, the fate of the team rested on No. 4 Rowan Reynolds ’06, who had dropped his first set 2-6. But, astounding the crowd, Reynolds came back to win his next two sets, 6-1, 6-4.
“When you’re supposed to close out a match it’s a special situation,” Reynolds said. “You can’t look ahead because then you start to not focus on the present and what you have to do to win. It is such a great [position] to be in because gives you the opportunity to not only give the team a victory, but it shows a lot to be able to persevere in that type of situation. It was an awesome moment.”
Reynolds, along with No. 6 David Goldman ’04, No. 2 Andrew Rosenfeld ’04 and No. 3 Brandon Wai ’07, earned singles victories against both Cornell and Columbia.
“Rowan won the deciding match for us on both days,” Dorato said. “He had a nice comeback on Friday. The kid he played Saturday he had lost to twice in the fall. There’s been a tremendous improvement in Rowan from fall to now.”
Both Rosenfeld and Wai emerged victorious in straight sets Friday and Saturday. Rosenfeld’s killer serve helped to propel him to his triumphs, 7-5, 6-4 against the Big Red’s Scott Paltrowitz, and a quick 6-1, 6-0 against Lion Rajeev Emany.
“I’m very happy with Andrew,” Dorato said. “He lost his first two Ivy League matches, but now he’s back on track.”
Wai trounced Cornell’s Brett McKeon 6-4, 6-2, and Columbia’s Yoku Kiuchi 6-2, 6-1, not only by playing well, but perhaps with the help of a visit from his father the nights before his matches. Wai’s dad did what he saw fit to help his son, who was suffering from a sprained ankle.
“He told me I need to put Chinese medicine on my ankle because Chinese medicine heals all,” Wai said. “So the night before the match he comes into my room and rubs it for fifteen minutes. I don’t think it did anything, but he does.”
While Chinese medicine seemingly helped bring Wai his victories, a new freshman force definitely helped bring the Bulldogs a victory Saturday. Dorato may finally have found the solution to the doubles equation that has been stumping him all season. With the help of Dorato’s newest player permutation, Chris Lawler ’07 and Wai, the Bulldogs broke their thirteen-match doubles point losing streak.
The tandem barely lost to the Big Red 9-7, after giving up a match point, but crushed the Lions in a tight match, 8-6.
“I think we compliment each other pretty well,” Lawler said. “[Wai] has amazing returns and good volleys, and he moves well. My serve is probably my strength and I’m pretty solid at the net so it works out well. I can hold off the opponent and he can break [the opponent’s] serve with his returns.”
Wai echoed Lawler’s sentiments, reasoning that a few smaller errors and unfamiliarity with each other’s playing styles cost the two the match on Friday. But if losing because of swinging at a few volleys and missing some returns is all that stands in the way of the pair’s success, the future for the freshman force looks bright.
At No. 1, Ryan Murphy ’05 and Reynolds came away with the only doubles victory against Cornell, 8-5. Though the duo narrowly lost to Columbia 8-6 on Saturday, their strength as a doubles team was shining through.
“We both have a lot of energy,” Reynolds said. “We’re chest-bumping all the time and getting each other pumped up. I’m happy to have a winning combination.”
Goldman and Rosenfeld just missed a victory against the Big Red at No. 2, falling 8-6. On Saturday, the senior pair defeated Jimmy Moore and Scott Robin 8-4 to help win the doubles point.
“I think we found our winning combination,” Dorato said. “I think we’ll stay with these teams. All three mesh very well.”
Hopefully, the success of the teams will carry into Yale’s three remaining Ivy League matches — Dartmouth, Harvard and Brown. Dorato said success against the Ivy trio may be with the grasp of the Bulldogs, though all are strong teams.
“We were disappointed with our start [of the Ivy season] last weekend, but we improved a lot by winning Cornell and Columbia this weekend, which I think a lot of other Ivies didn’t think we could do,” Lawler said. “We have our confidence now — and we’re in a position where if we stay focused and have a good week of practice — I think we’ll be able to take able to take care of these last three and hopefully have a strong finish to the season.”
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