The Yale men’s tennis team began its season with two losses, a heartbreaker and a blowout. But the team remains unfazed as they look forward to what they say is shaping up to be a strong Ivy performance this spring.
Yale lost a close matchup with No. 49 North Carolina State on Saturday, 4-3. The next day, the Elis suffered a 7-0 loss to the No. 30 University of North Carolina. Despite the losses, the Bulldogs garnered valuable experience this weekend with all-important conference play on the horizon.
There were a few close singles matches on Saturday against NC State. No. 1 Brandon Wai ’07 battled with Nick Cavaday to a 7-6, 7-6 victory despite playing with an injured ankle. Jeff Dawson ’09 played No. 3 and fought back against William Noblitt from what seemed a certain loss to a stunning triumph, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5. And No. 4 Michael Caldwell secured a 6-4, 6-4 win over Chris Welte.
The doubles matches were not as fruitful, with the Elis losing all of their matches. But No. 2 doubles players Rory Green ’08 and Rowan Reynolds ’06 tested Cavaday and Welte in a close loss, 9-7.
The Bulldogs lost all of their matchups on Sunday. Rather than record another dazzling comeback, Dawson dropped his match, 6-2, 6-4. Caldwell could do nothing to calm UNC’s assault, finishing with a 6-4, 6-3 loss.
Not even Wai could curb the Tarheels. He managed only one game in a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Raian Luchici, the No. 5 player in the country.
One doubles game stood apart from the rest, when Reynolds and Green played the No. 1 nationally ranked team of Luchici and Brad Pomeroy. Reynolds and Green began the match by jumping out to a 4-1 lead. But after such a promising start, Luchici and Pomeroy answered forcefully, eventually winning, 8-5.
Wai said the losses indicate nothing about the rest of the season. The Bulldogs had little chance of winning, he said, and last weekend was a learning experience.
“After every match, we learned the level we need to play at,” Wai said.
Yale head coach Alex Dorato said he has few worries going into the Ivy season, and that Yale is a better match for the Ivy League teams than for NC State and UNC.
“We’re going to spend more time on doubles,” he said. “Other than that, we’re just going to keep improving.”
Dorato said he feels that the freshmen will be a key asset to this year’s team. Three freshmen competed last weekend: Josh Lederman ’09, Dawson and Caldwell. Dorato also anticipates getting Tom Santoro ’09 on the court.
For the most part, the players attributed their loss to a skewed matchup.
“[UNC] did beat us pretty bad,” Dawson said. “That’s why they’re a top-30 team.”
On the whole, the players said they felt they played well against their hardest competition of the year and benefited from the learning experience.
“[This] gives the guys an idea what the next level is,” Dorato said.
The Elis will have a chance to redeem themselves at home this Friday at against Rutgers.