For the second consecutive weekend, the men’s tennis team battled hard but ended play with mixed results.
After dropping a 5-2 decision at the hands of archrival Harvard at home on Friday afternoon, the persistent Bulldogs (8-11, 2-4 Ivy) bounced back with a 5-2 thumping of their own against Dartmouth (16-8, 1-5) when they traveled to Hanover, N.H. the following day. By beating the Elis once again this season, the Crimson continued its dominance of Yale on the courts, as the Bulldogs have fallen to Harvard every season for the past half-decade.
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“Unfortunately, not everyone was at their best against Harvard,” Tom Santoro ’09 said. “It was a tough day and they are a very strong team. We played very well against Dartmouth, though. It was great to get that win on the road and go into our last match with some momentum.”
But Yale’s most recent loss to the Crimson was not as lopsided as the final tally might indicate. The Bulldogs notched victories at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and were a tiebreaker away from capturing the doubles point as well. Captain Brandon Wai ’07 registered victories in both matches this weekend to improve his Ancient Eight record to 4-1, and the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year is primed to repeat this season. Michael Caldwell ’09 came away with a 6-2, 7-5 triumph over Harvard junior Ashwin Kumar, but the Elis could not find a point anywhere else in the lineup, dropping the bottom three singles matches in straight sets. Jeff Dawson ’09 battled hard at No. 3 singles, handily winning the first set, only to drop the second and fall in a super tiebreaker, 10-8.
“We played well, but obviously I would have liked a different outcome,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “Had the match still been at stake, I think Jeff would have come away with a win at three. Our strength is the top of the lineup and theirs is the bottom. Both teams did what they had to do, but we just couldn’t pull it out.”
Reminiscent of last weekend’s turnaround, a rejuvenated and determined Yale squad came together on Saturday and rallied to victory. The Bulldogs did not let the Harvard loss get them down, but rather focused their efforts on the Big Green and came away with an impressive win. Yale received solid performances across the board en route to its second road Ivy League victory of the year.
The No. 1 singles match showcased captains of both teams, and the action did not disappoint. Wai struck first and captured the first set, 6-4, but senior David Waslen fought his way back and was up a break late in the match before Wai hit several scorching returns to regain the lead. Wai eventually secured both the singles and team match in a tiebreaker.
Caldwell and Dawson won their matches in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively, and Connor Dawson ’10 gave the Elis their fourth singles victory with a trying 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 triumph at No. 5. The Bulldogs also took two of three doubles matches to seize the doubles point.
Yale will play its final match of the season when it hosts Brown this Wednesday afternoon on Senior Day. Although the Elis will not be playing for a shot at the title this year — Penn and Columbia have already clinched it with 6-1 records — they hope to send their seniors, namely Wai, off with a victory. Wai has been perhaps the most feared player in the league for the past few seasons.
“It’s something I’m definitely going to miss a lot,” Wai said. “I’ve dedicated so much time to tennis here. But I’m always going to come back and keep track of these guys. I’m definitely going to still feel like a part of Yale tennis when I’m gone.”
It will be the last match in Wai’s illustrious career and the team will surely struggle to replace him next year.
“He’s going to be a tremendous loss,” Dorato said. “We will miss him for sure. It’s always tough to replace a player and a leader like Brandon Wai.”