After a tough spring break schedule that featured a six-match tour of the west coast, the men’s tennis team is poised to challenge for the Ivy League title this spring.

Despite finishing 2-4 over the break, the Bulldogs (6-6) have high hopes for the rest of the season. After going 1-4 against California teams, the Elis finished on a high note, defeating No. 51 Utah (7-4), 4-3. The victory was the first time over the break that the Bulldogs were able to take a match decided by two wins or less. The team lost close 3-4 decisions to both UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount (6-7) and fell to UC Irvine (8-8), 2-4. The Elis’ overall record for the spring season dropped to 6-6, but with Ivy League play coming up in two weeks, the Bulldogs will have plenty of opportunities to add to the win column.

The Bulldogs, No. 66 in Div. I, currently rank higher than all Ivy opponents except Brown, No. 53. If the Elis can win the Ivy League title, they will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in May. And if the gutsy win over Utah is any indication, the Bulldogs have what it takes to get it done.

“Our trip was an unbelievable performance,” Rowan Reynolds ’06 said. “Guys tried their asses off.”

Reynolds, who went 3-2 playing at the No. 5 and No. 6 singles spots for Yale, won some of the closest matches of the trip.

Team members said the trip gave them valuable experience playing outdoors for the first time in months and a chance to improve as they became used to the conditions.

“The most important thing was that we improved,” Milosz Gudzowski ’06 said. “I think we played our worst tennis in the first two matches, but eventually we got used to playing outside.”

In the Utah match, Gudzowski defeated Tomas Grzub, 6-4, 6-2, and won his doubles match at No. 3 with Chris Lawler, 8-2.

Another cause for optimism was the solid play of No. 1 seed Brandon Wai ’07. Wai’s four wins during the trip included a 7-6, 7-6 win against Loyola and a crucial 6-4, 6-3 win in the ultimately victorious effort versus Utah. Also coming through in the clutch was freshman Michael Caldwell ’09, who put away his opponent, 6-2, 6-0, at the No. 3 spot.

“Caldwell came through unbelievably against Utah,” Reynolds said. “He played incredibly, match point after match point.”

Caldwell said that while he struggled during the team’s first matches, particularly in a tough three-set loss against UCSB, he felt more relaxed against Utah.

“I came in with a lot more confidence,” he said. “Pulling that upset out last week let us know we can beat tough teams.”

The Bulldogs have this weekend off from competition before they take on Manhattan College April 1, followed by all seven Ivy League rivals.