Rebounds aren’t only for basketball.
During last weekend’s matches in Greenville, S.C., the men’s tennis team recovered quickly from a 7-0 loss Saturday against Furman (1-3) to defeat Wofford (3-4) on Sunday, 6-1.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”12646″ ]
Head coach Alex Dorato said the team, which played with a full lineup after two players had been injured earlier in the season, played well both days and he was satisfied overall with the Bulldogs’ motivation and teamwork.
After losing their first three matches to teams within the nation’s top 15 and coming within a few points of defeating No. 13 Alabama, Furman came out strong and fast against Yale (1-2). In doubles action, the Paladins doled out 8-0, 8-3 and 8-6 decisions to the three Eli pairs.
In singles, Jeff Dawson ’09, Connor Dawson ’10 and Calvin Bennett ’11 displayed heart as they battled into third sets. The elder Dawson brother played with endurance: After a narrow 8-6 loss in his doubles match with Josh Lederman ’09, he won a hard-fought first set at No. 2 singles, dropped the second set and came back to force a tiebreaker in the third, ending with a 6-7, 6-3, 1-0 (6) loss to Furman’s Robert Ladyman.
Although the Paladins claimed victory across the board, the Elis displayed tremendous vitality on the courts, Mike Caldwell ’09 said.
“They were just a better team,” he said. “Winning and losing is really out of your control, so you can’t be too unhappy when you lose like we did to Furman.”
Back on the courts for a 9 a.m. matchup Sunday against the Wofford Terriers, the Bulldogs braved 45-degree weather for an hour of outdoor play. Dorato noted that it was the team’s first time on outdoor courts since October. But once rain forced the players indoors, the Elis were able to play more aggressive tennis, captain Rory Green ’08 said. Yale would go on to avenge the previous day’s massacre, defeating Wofford with an authoritative 6-1 decision. The victory marked the Bulldogs’ first win of the season.
After sweeping the doubles matches with scores of 8-4, 8-5 and 8-5, the Bulldogs were poised to continue the streak into their singles matches.
At the No. 1 position, Caldwell found a tough opponent in Wofford’s Andrew Stubbs, playing a grueling match that hinged on a few key game points. Caldwell narrowly lost, 7-6, 7-6.
With the score at 5-4, the rain forced Caldwell’s match indoors after he had secured a break late into the first set. On dry courts, both players broke each other once in the second set, and Caldwell held his ground to deflect several of his opponent’s match points at 5-4 once again. Caldwell forced the second set into a tiebreaker, but Stubbs clinched the game in the final points.
Green said Caldwell made a few uncharacteristic errors, not playing his best tiebreakers, which made the difference in the tight match.
“While [Caldwell] could have played better,” Green said, “the level was high, and the match came down to a couple of points here and there. He is hitting the ball really well and is going to be a huge asset to us this season.”
The remainder of the Eli players won in straight sets against the Terriers.
Jeff Dawson coasted to a win at the No. 2 spot, 6-3, 6-3 — a much-deserved short match after a trying day Saturday against Furman.
Green, Connor Dawson and Bennett each struggled into precarious positions in their first sets before confidently finishing off their opponents in the second. Green defeated Terrier Alan Donald, 7-5, 6-1; Connor Dawson edged past Chris Williams, 7-5, 6-3; and Bennett found inspiration to finish with a 7-6, 6-0 romp of Paul Bartholomy.
Bennett attributed the unmistakable shift in play style between the first and second sets to the strong sense of team morale.
“Playing for a team where everyone wants the best for everyone is the best motivating factor in the world,” he said.
The victory brought Yale to 1-2 in the season so far, producing a confidence boost as the team travels south to face Georgetown and Navy away this weekend.
“Regardless of who we play,” Jeff Dawson said, “they better be expecting a dog fight.”