In the nation’s capital this past weekend, the men’s tennis team found that victory may actually be easier than government work.
The Elis are riding a three-game winning streak after dual 5-2 wins against Georgetown (2-7) and Navy (9-3) on the road, bringing the team’s season record to 3-2. The women’s team, away in Boston over the weekend, did not find success quite as easily, losing 5-2 to Boston College on Saturday and 4-3 to Boston University on Sunday. With their No. 3 and No. 6 players sidelined with injuries, the women’s team fought hard in a handful of close matches but were unable to convert them into wins.
Taking on Georgetown in Washington, D.C., late Saturday night, the men’s team took both the doubles point and the top four singles matches, securing the victory.
Shifting the usual lineup, Yale’s coaches bumped Jeff Dawson ’09 up from the No. 2 position to No. 1 where he defeated the Hoyas’ Jeffrey Schnell, 7-5, 6-2.
“Jeff has being playing really well lately,” captain Rory Green ’08 said, referring to his teammate’s personal singles record of 4-1 this season. “He matched up well versus Georgetown’s No. 1, beating a good player.”
Mike Caldwell ’09, who usually plays at the top position, said it is common for coaches to alter the team’s lineup but that he was surprised when head coach Alex Dorato told him about the switch. He admitted it could be beneficial to get some less-strenuous matches under his belt, after an intense loss in two tiebreakers the previous weekend against Wofford’s No. 1 player.
Caldwell, Green and Connor Dawson ’10 cruised to victory in two-set decisions in other singles action.
The remaining singles players, Calvin Bennett ’11 and Matt Schimmel ’10, lost in tantalizingly close matches. Bennett was edged in two closely contested sets, 7-6 (2), 7-5, and Schimmel lost in a third-set tiebreak, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 1-0 (10-6).
Green said that although the team exhibited strong performances, the score line flattered the Hoyas, who have lost their past seven matchups.
“We should have won by a greater margin,” he said.
The following day, the Elis traveled to Annapolis to challenge Navy. The Bulldogs sunk the Midshipmen’s four-match winning streak. Losing the doubles point gave the Navy team false hope, as the loss would quickly be avenged as Yale came out with intensity in a near-sweep of the singles bracket.
“Yale had too much power for us,” Navy head coach John Officer said in an e-mail. “Yale came out at positions 1, 2 and 4 and took control of the match. We were on our heels in those matches.”
Despite an 8-6 win by a doubles team of Caldwell and Connor Dawson, the Bulldogs dropped the doubles point. Team members said losing doubles was particularly disappointing given their focus on improving doubles strategy and play during practice.
“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that we’re not doing right in doubles,” Caldwell said. “But we need to improve for the Ivy season.”
However, the Elis came back in force to win the top five singles matches. Back at the No. 1 spot, Caldwell powered past his opponent in a 6-3, 6-2 decision. Jeff Dawson, Green and Connor Dawson also won in straight sets.
At the No. 4 position, Bennett struggled in the first set against Navy’s Alex James. Bennett said tentative play held him back, leading to trouble returning his opponent’s serves. Several teammates commented that Bennett’s levelheaded and focused play enabled him to shift the match’s momentum and shut down his opponent, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0.
“Calvin did not play his best against Georgetown and was finding it tough against Navy at first,” Green said. “But he played some phenomenal tennis and won comfortably in the end. He is an incredibly mature player for a freshman and has earned so much respect from the team already.”
Bennett acknowledged the strong support from his teammates: “Hearing Jeff’s Apollonian voice always helps; it gives wings to the feet.”
Navy’s lone singles victory came at No. 6, where Owen Bullard secured a 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) win over Tom Santoro ’09.
Although Santoro said he is satisfied overall with his play during the match, he admitted there were a few opportunities on which he should have capitalized.
Coming off a strong weekend, the Bulldogs said they hope to keep adding more points to their win column as they head into the Ivy League season. The team will travel to challenge Army (6-1) this Sunday in West Point, N.Y.
“We will hopefully use [the weekend’s] momentum heading into several good matches out in California during spring break,” Caldwell said. “Things are looking pretty good.”
The women traveled to Boston over the weekend, challenging Boston College (4-1) Saturday afternoon and Boston University (4-2) the following day. The Elis gave it their all, but fell short both days, losing 5-2 to BC and 4-3 to BU.
Captain Lilian Nguyen ’09 attributed the loss to a number of factors: switched partnerships in doubles play, a tough training schedule of 6 a.m. practices and having to sit two starting players.
“But we are not big on making excuses,” she said. “We didn’t play at the level we could have.”
Lindsey Dashiell ’08 said that, despite Sarah Lederhandler ’10 and Lauren Ritz ’11 being sidelined by injuries, the team was hurt more by the psychological effects of the injuries than by a shifted lineup.
“All nine of us train hard to step in if necessary,” Dashiell said. “These things happen at this level of play.”
Picking up the sole wins for the Bulldogs against BC were Lindsay Clark ’11 and Nguyen, who cruised to victory over their opponents, 6-2, 6-0 and 7-5, 6-3, respectively.
Jessica Rhee ’10 was edged in a hard-fought three-setter against the Eagles’ Dasha Cherkasov at No. 2 singles. After losing the first set 6-4, Rhee fought for a 7-5 victory in the second before barely losing in the last set, 7-5.
“Jessie really fought hard,” Dashiell said. “But it didn’t happen. She and Stevie [Petrelli ’11] really gave it their all. I commend them both for battling and not letting go.”
Nguyen agreed: “Jessie and Stevie were both down but fought hard to come back. The close ones … are really heartbreakers.”
The following day, the Bulldogs learned from their mistakes against BC, especially in the doubles bracket, to come out strong against the Terriers of BU. Although the team was topped in doubles play Saturday, they bounced back to secure dangerously close wins at the No. 1 and 2 doubles positions.
Clark and Rhee kept their heads in the game to edge by their opponents, winning 9-7. Janet Kim ’09 and Dashiell similarly won a 9-7 decision at No. 2 doubles.
In singles, Kim and Clark came away with wins for the Elis, at the No. 2 and 3 spots, respectively. Kim won narrowly, 7-5. 6-4, and Clark cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 victory.
Again, Petrelli found herself in an intense match, fighting back from a loss in the first set. Despite losing, 6-3, 7-5, Petrelli displayed impressive endurance and heart, Dashiell said. She added that although it was frustrating to lose two matches in a row, the team decided to put the losses behind them and bounce right back, keeping the season in perspective.
“There are 14 matches left … another week of practice. It’s not the way we were taught to just give up,” she said.
The Bulldogs will take on Syracuse (6-6) at home in Woodbridge, Conn., on Saturday.