After a series of 7-0 romps over Army, Navy and UConn, the streaking Elis finally met their match against a sun-drenched foe.

On Sunday, after Saturday’s cancellation of the Purdue match, the men’s tennis team attempted to defend its home court versus Loyola Marymount but came away empty-handed. Despite senior Brandon Wai ’07 pacing the Bulldogs with victories in both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, the visitors from Southern California walked away with a 5-2 victory.

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The 5-2 final score does not convey how close many of the matches actually were. All four Yale losses in singles came down to the very end of the match in the third and final set. Michael Caldwell ’09 lost in particularly heartbreaking fashion to Loyola Marymount’s Nicolas Terrian, going down 7-6, 3-6, 6-7 in a final-set tiebreaker. Jeff Dawson ’09, Rory Green ’08 and Connor Dawson ’10 also fell short in their final sets. The tight matches carried over to the doubles side, where partners Jeff Dawson and Josh Lederman ’09 came away on the wrong end of an 8-6 decision.

“To a degree, there was a little frustration with the number of close losses, but we have to rebound and we can’t think about the past,” team captain Wai said.

The Bulldogs were in position to win nearly every match, and this toughness is something head coach Alex Dorato hopes his team can carry over to its next competition.

“Even on an off day, we almost beat a very good team,” he said.

Youth is heavily represented at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, as five of Yale’s seven starters on Sunday were either freshmen or sophomores. At No. 5, Matt Schimmel ’10, who defeated the Lions’ Matt Phillips 6-3, 7-6, was the only other Yalie besides Wai to come away with a victory. He got off to a good start in the first set and carried that momentum over to the second, working hard to hold off a determined rally from Phillips.

“We are a very young team, and next year we only lose Brandon and Chris [Lawler ’07] which is going to be hard, but we have a lot of time to improve and get better,” Schimmel said. “With so much youth on the team, one can expect the team to only get better with time as the underclassmen continue to gain experience and poise with each passing game.”

But Wai isn’t ready to bow out just yet. He quickly dismissed Nikola Petrov in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 in No. 1 singles and teamed up with Rory Green ’08 to dominate Nicolas Terrian and Jacek Twarowski, 8-2, in No. 1 doubles.

“We didn’t play our best, but we have to play well in the big spring break trip coming up and Ivy League play, which really counts,” Wai said. Over the upcoming spring break, the Bulldogs will travel to UC Irvine, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, San Diego State and San Diego.

The team will next take over the court at UC Irvine on March 13, and hopes to turn the tough lessons learned from this match into victories in the Golden State.

“I think we’ll be a major force in Ivy League Play,” Dorato said. “Once we get back from spring break, we’ll be playing much better than we played yesterday. Even the guys who lost yesterday have been practicing very well.”