The men’s tennis team showed no mercy this weekend.
After losing both matches last weekend, the Bulldogs (2-2) rebounded to crush Rutgers (0-1), 7-0, and Army (3-5), 6-1. Throughout every match, the team gave no thought to past shortcomings. Instead, the players focused all their efforts on winning and progressing as a squad, team members said.
On Saturday, the Elis cruised past Rutgers even without their No. 1 player, Brandon Wai ’07. Wai, who had been dealing with an ankle injury, rested while his team shifted its order.
Milosz Gudzowski ’06 took advantage of Wai’s absence to show that he too can be a formidable top seed. Gudzowski started his singles match by winning the first set, 6-2, over the Scarlet Knights’ powerful Tyler Demming. The second set was tense, though. Demming rallied to a 5-2 lead with an impressive display of powerful returns and difficult serves. But Gudzowski answered by winning five straight games to take the set, 7-5, and close out the match.
The Bulldogs easily won their other matches against the Scarlet Knights. Jeff Dawson ’09 played No. 2 singles and consistently outmaneuvered Jonathan Wanono to win, 6-4, 6-2. First doubles teammates Rowan Reynolds ’06 and Rory Green ’08 seemed set to relieve their frustration from last week on an unsuspecting Rutgers team in an 8-4 win.
With Wai’s return on Saturday, the team trampled Army. Wai came back to the court, winning his first singles set, 6-1, over John Houghton. Houghton retired after losing the first game of the second set. 1-0.
Dawson again showed his talent with some spectacular returns in his 6-2, 6-3 win over Black Knight Mike Good. Michael Caldwell ’09 had the only loss of the weekend to Carl Fisher in a close match, 7-6, 6-4. All three doubles teams won.
These wins were much needed in the wake of the Bulldogs’ Feb. 5 loss, 7-0, to No. 30 UNC-Chapel Hill. Caldwell said the Bulldogs needed to get a victory this weekend to keep morale high.
“We had just come off last weekend losing to two really tough teams,” Caldwell said. “The mind-set was not to take [Rutgers and Army] for granted.”
The general feeling among the Elis was that the losses to the Tarheels and to North Carolina State are no predictors of the team’s future performance.
“Even after a couple of losses in North Carolina, we still had the same mentality,” Dawson said.
Team members said they aim to bring the same intense mental attitude to every game and that good results will follow.
Although these wins were a good transition from the weekend in North Carolina, the Bulldogs said they felt they were expected to win. But it was obvious after the doubles matches against Rutgers that the Elis were not counting on anything. Each player strained to beat his opponent both mentally and physically.
“I think we were more focused playing on the courts,” Lederman said. “We just tried to do our best to take care of business.”
Given the unfortunate circumstances of the weekend — Wai’s absence and the previous losses — the Elis showed that they can come together as a team. After moving up a seed against Rutgers, Gudzowski and Dawson in particular showed that they are ready to compensate by performing at a higher level when the No. 1 player is out. The wins showed the team that they can overcome tough losses in one week to produce wins the next. Whether or not Rutgers and Army were Ivy-quality opponents, the Elis all said they needed to win.
“It was fun,” Lederman said. “We beat them pretty badly.”