Plagued once again by injuries, the men’s tennis team could not quite pull through at the ECACs.
Though the Elis began the team tournament seeded fifth, they ended with a seventh-place finish after losing Saturday to No. 4 Princeton 6-1, and Sunday to No. 8 University of Pennsylvania 5-2, in Flushing Meadow, N.Y.
“I was disappointed,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “I thought we had a pretty good chance of upsetting Princeton and we came closer than the score indicated. But I had my heart set on beating them. I knew [Penn] would be a struggle because we didn’t have [captain] Ryan Murphy [’05] in the lineup.”
Murphy was unable to compete in the Penn match due to a back injury he sustained against the Tigers. The Bulldogs are still unsure of the exact nature of the problem.
The weekend began well for Yale with a 6-1 win over Stony Brook. Number one Brandon Wai ’07 was the only Bulldog to drop his match, losing to Jan Krecji, No. 100 in the country in the NCAA preseason rankings. Wai took the first set 6-4, but lost the second 4-6. Krecji prevailed in the ten-point tie-breaker 10-5.
“[Krecji] was really good,” Wai said. “I came out really strong and won the first set but in the second when the score was three all, I played a sloppy game and ended up losing. But I was actually really happy with my performance that day.”
Murphy, Milosz Gudzowski ’06, Johnny Lu ’05, Matt Feldman ’06 and Joe Vellanikaran ’08 all won their singles matches against Stony Brook in straight sets.
The Elis achieved further success against Stony Brook in winning the doubles point. Wai and Murphy, playing at No. 1, defeated their opponents 8-6, and No. 3 Feldman and Lu, a fairly new and promising duo, won 8-5.
“I really feel good about [playing with Lu],” Feldman said. “We’ve been playing well together. Like last weekend, we returned well and we got the other guys on the defensive right away, then capitalized on that.”
At No. 2, Chris Lawler ’07 and Gudzowski lost 8-6.
On Saturday, the Tigers overcame the Bulldogs in a disappointing match that Yale had felt was quite winnable.
“We came into the Princeton match thinking we were definitely going to win,” Lawler said. “Throughout the Yale Invitational and the Princeton Invitational we’ve done really well and beaten most of the guys individually.”
All three doubles pairs lost to Princeton, giving the Tigers the first point of the match. In singles, Murphy began to suffer from back pain early in his match, and his opponent won easily 6-2, 6-0.
While there were some close singles matches — Lu lost in a tiebreaker 10-4 after splitting sets 6-7, 6-4, and Feldman lost 6-5, 6-5 — the Elis could not pull together the important points needed to close out a match.
“It came down to a couple points here and there against Princeton,” Feldman said.
The loss against Princeton put Yale in a position to play for fifth place against Penn. But the weekend’s first two matches had taken a toll on the Elis.
Without Rowan Reynolds ’06 in the fall lineup due to a knee injury, and Murphy out with his back injury, each Eli except for No. 1 Wai played two spots up in the lineup from where they usually play. Meanwhile, William Vidal ’06 had to step in at the No. 6 spot. He fell 6-3, 6-2.
“It was my first dual match, so I was a little nervous,” Vidal said. “I think I should have done better than I did … I think everybody was a little bit down.”
Wai and Gudzowski were the only Elis able to win their singles matches, cruising 6-4, 6-0 and 6-4, 6-3, respectively. Vellanikaran had a tight match, splitting sets 6-7, 7-5, and losing 10-5 in the tie-breaker. Lu and Feldman were the only Elis to win their doubles match, 8-6.
Despite the disappointing seventh place finish this weekend, the team is still optimistic about its season. Once the injured players recover and freshmen and other players who have not played much in past seasons gain more experience, the general sentiment is that the team can excel.
“Princeton was very close,” Dorato said. “Johnny Lu’s been banged up for the past couple of years but now he’s healthier than he’s ever been, so he will raise his game. Matt Feldman’s playing the best tennis he’s ever played. Ryan Murphy is going to get healthy, and when he is, he’s a great player. Our two freshmen are really talented kids, and given another semester of practice, they’re going to get a lot better.”
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