A few points in as few as three individual matches have been the difference between a potentially undefeated men’s tennis team and one that has struggled out of the gate.
Anyone involved in Ivy League tennis is well aware of the arguably unparalleled parity the league has to offer, and thus far, Ancient Eight play has not disappointed. The Bulldogs (7-10, 1-3 Ivy) were edged by the slimmest of margins — 4-3 — in their first three conference matches, the last of these heartbreakers coming this past Friday when the Elis traveled to New York City for a showdown with Columbia. But the Bulldogs displayed discipline and resiliency this weekend, bouncing back from a string of tough losses to register a 6-1 manhandling of Cornell on Saturday.
“[It was] very frustrating to lose the first three matches, 4-3,” Rory Green ’08 said. “We were close to beating all of those teams even though we’re not really playing our best. Cornell was pretty solid all the way through. We did very well to beat Cornell up there, especially on their home courts and with their home fans. They’re not an easy team to beat.”
For the third consecutive match, Yale exhibited an unfortunate inability to piece together all parts of the puzzle against the Lions. In their first match against Penn, the Bulldogs received victories from their top three singles spots, but were unable to find success at any other positions. The following day against Princeton, the Elis chalked up wins in doubles and the lower singles positions, but dropped the top three singles matches. The flip-flop continued against Columbia, in a match eerily reminiscent of Penn.
At No. 1 singles, Brandon Wai ’07 bounced back from his first Ivy loss since 2005, downing Columbia’s Jared Drucker 6-3, 6-3. Michael Caldwell ’09 and Jeff Dawson ’09 followed suit at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, rebounding from last week’s home losses against the Tigers. But unfortunately for the Elis, the team’s lower half could not deliver. The Lions received solid performances at No. 4, 5 and 6 singles to down their Bulldog counterparts in straight sets at each position. After the teams split No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, Columbia’s No. 1 doubles team of Marty Moore and Paul Ratchford climbed out of an early hole to pull off an exciting 8-6 victory over the Elis, securing both the doubles point and the match.
Disappointed but not demoralized, Yale continued its journey across the Empire State to the Reis Tennis Center in Ithaca. Perhaps using the Columbia loss as motivation, the Elis responded with a vengeance, registering wins at five of six singles positions and seizing the doubles point for good measure. A day after pounding reigning Ivy League co-champion Brown, the Big Red ran into a wall against the Bulldogs, losing the top five singles positions in straight sets.
“We had a great attitude,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “We lost our third 4-3 match, but it didn’t discourage us. We came out all the more determined to win against Cornell. I think that shows what kind of character this team has.”
Players said they felt relieved to finally get some results for all their efforts.
“It was difficult to have another close loss,” Tom Santoro ’09 said. “But we gave it our best effort. I’m happy we were able to get our first win at Cornell and get that monkey off our back.”
Yale will try to generate some momentum in the conference this weekend, playing host to Harvard on Friday and traveling to Dartmouth on Saturday.
“Harvard-Yale in any sport is a big one,” Green said. “For us, we’re not going to change anything or play any harder. We’ve been going 100 percent all season. It’s a pride thing, though. We know those guys pretty well. It’s going to be a battle, but we’re up for the challenge.”