The Elis came out firing early, only to get shot down on the second day.

The men’s tennis team got off to a blistering start Friday, winning all but one of their matches in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Regional Tournament in Princeton, N.J. All of the Elis were victorious on the singles side of the bracket on Day One, but things quickly fell into disarray.

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Jeff Dawson ’09, the No. 17 seed, was the lone Bulldog survivor of the second-day fallout. He broke into the round of 32 in the 128-person tourney before bowing out against George Carpeni of Princeton.

Michael Caldwell ’09 was the highest-seeded Bulldog in the singles side at No. 11, but after a bye in the first round he was upset by John Hughes of Penn State in the second by a score of 6-2, 6-4.

The team didn’t meet its own high expectations.

“There were some good wins in there, but they were outnumbered by missed opportunities,” captain Rory Green ’08 said. “Our preparation for the tournament could have been better. This tournament is the most important of the fall season — we treated it seriously, as did every other team.”

But the early exit of some of Yale’s players had more to do with the draw than their talent. After a selection committee assigns the top seeds, all unseeded players are scattered randomly throughout the draw, Tom Santoro ’09 said. Connor Dawson ’10, for example, drew an extremely unlucky match-up with the tournament’s top-seeded player, Penn State’s James Michael, in the second round, and fell in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.

Events unfolded similarly on the doubles side: early success gave way to later misfortune. Two of the three doubles pairs fell in the first two rounds of the tournament of 64. Jeff Dawson and Josh Lederman ’09 saw the greatest success in the doubles bracket, advancing to the round of 16 before falling 8-5 to Will Guzick and Chris Clayton from Harvard. In the early round, Dawson and Lederman dominated their opponents with an 8-1 victory then squeaked by their second round opponents 9-7, before ultimately falling to the Harvard duo. Caldwell and Connor Dawson ’10 went in as the 11th-seeded duo, but failed to live up to the high seeding. They were upset in the first round by Ryan Berthod and Robert Ferrante of Fairfield.

“Overall I think we’re all a little disappointed with some of the matches,” Caldwell said. “I think the team is capable of doing much better as a whole — in singles and doubles — and it’s always disappointing not living up to expectations. For me personally, I’m disappointed to have lost early in singles and doubles, but everybody is tough in this region and you have to credit your opponents.”

In the end, this was only a preseason tournament with the hotly contested Ivy League season still months over the horizon. A deja vu moment or two may be in store for certain players come spring, as they ran into their Ivy League counterparts this weekend. The league is going to be tight, but the Bulldogs still have confidence.

“There’s a lot of parity in the league — most of the teams are fairly similar and strong — but if we work really hard and perform well, I feel that we have a great shot,” Santoro said. “We got a lot of match experience and we continue to practice hard which should pay off later.”

Practice has been a little more difficult than in years past because their usual indoor courts are being renovated, but that has not prevented the Bulldogs from training and conditioning hard, Caldwell said.

This was the last event of 2007 in which the men’s tennis team will participate. The Bulldogs will next compete in the Columbia Classic in New York in late January.