Despite a rough start, the Yale men’s tennis team managed to find its balance in this weekend’s roller coaster ride at the Princeton/Farnsworth Invitational. The Elis improved as the tournament progressed, building their chemistry with the help of freshman team spirit and upperclassman experience.

The Bulldogs ended their weekend in New Jersey with four matches in their favor. Michael Caldwell ’09 claimed the consolation final of the “A” singles draw, defeating the University of Pennsylvania’s Adam Schwartz, and Connor Dawson ’10 won the “B” doubles final, teaming with University of Virginia’s Leif Sutherland. Dawson also claimed third place in the “B” singles draw on the same day, overcoming his doubles partner, Sutherland.

“I think I played pretty well this weekend,” Dawson said. “It was our first tournament, so everyone was getting used to playing matches and getting back in to the swing of things.”

Josh Lederman ’09 and Jeff Dawson ’09 reached the finals of the “A” doubles draw, only to lose 8-5 to Cornell’s Dan Brous and Josh Raff, the top-ranked team in the competition. The duo’s road to the finals included victories Saturday over the No. 2 seeds, Penn’s Jason Pinksy and Brandon O’Gara, and over Columbia’s Jared Drucker and Jonathan Wong in the semifinals.

Caldwell and Chris Lawler ’07 lost to Paul Ratchford and Marty Moore of Columbia in the quarterfinals Saturday, while Lawler and Tom Santoro ’09 advanced to the “B” flight consolation quarterfinals after opening round losses.

“Despite a disappointing first day of matches the team rebounded well, in particular Chris Lawler,” Lederman wrote in an e-mail. “Chris, despite a partially torn rotator cuff, managed to surprise everyone — including himself — and make it all the way to the finals. His savvy play and veteran leadership helped boost the moral of all of us. Looking back on the weekend, I point to Chris Lawler’s cagey playing as a symbol for what is yet to come for Yale men’s tennis.”

Players said Lawler had a good tournament overall and showed the team what champions are made of. Friday, Lawler overcame Mark Gober of Princeton, but then lost to Dale Madan of Rutgers, 6-2, 5-7 (4), in a closely contested matchup.

“Chris Lawler had a great tournament getting to the finals,” Matt Schimmel ’10 said. “He’s a wily senior, and I feel his hard work really paid off for him. The team is glad that out of the four sports he could’ve played at Yale, he chose tennis.”

Although team captan Brandon Wai ’07 was not competing this weekend, he nevertheless traveled with the team to New Jersey and offered his help as a hitting partner despite suffering from a recurring sore throat.

“[Wai] was a huge help in team morale,” Lederman wrote. “[Wai] toughed out the illness and came down with the team to cheer us on, which especially helped the rookie freshmen adapt to the college environment.”

Lederman was not the only teammate who said Wai provided guidance and support for the rest of the team.

“[Wai] … begged Yale head coach Alex Dorato to allow him to come on the trip and support the team, showing his dedication to the team and establishing himself as the best captain the Yale men’s tennis team has ever, and I dare say will ever, see,” Dawson said.

This weekend, the Bulldogs will travel to New York for the year’s first team play tournament — the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships. Players said they felt the Princeton Invitational was a good warmup for Friday and their first big benchmark.

“We expect to continue to improve and play better every weekend,” Dawson said. “The ECACs will be a great test to gauge where we stand at this early point in our preparation for Ivy League dominance.”