Every journey begins with a single step.
The men’s tennis team (7-9, 1-1 Ivy) bounced back after a tough 6-1 loss to Penn (11-8, 2-1) on Friday to edge past Princeton (9-7, 1-2), 4-3, on Saturday in its Ivy League openers on the road.
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“Of course it would have been nice to be 2-0 at this point,” Mike Caldwell ’09 said, “but it’s very difficult to win both matches on the road when you’re playing teams of that caliber.”
In Philadelphia, shifts in Yale’s lineup — captain Rory Green ’08 was still restricted to the sidelines — meant every player would have to raise his level of play a notch.
“Even though a few links were missing from the chain, we still performed with heart and determination,” Calvin Bennett ’11 said after the weekend’s matches.
The Elis dropped the doubles point despite close matches. The team of Jeff Dawson ’09 and Bennett rallied to an 8-4 victory at No. 2 doubles, but their teammates could not pull off a subsequent win to take the doubles point.
Connor Dawson ’10 carried the flag for the Bulldogs, winning in straight sets, 7-5, 6-0, at No. 3 singles. At No. 1, Caldwell lost narrowly to the Quakers’ Jason Pinsky, 7-6, 6-4.
Penn head coach Nik DeVore named the No. 1 players as the standout performers of the match.
“Jason played very well against Caldwell, who is a very tough competitor — especially if he is serving well,” DeVore said.
Jeff Dawson fought back after losing his first set at No. 2, but he lost momentum in the third, dropping the match, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Bennett also lost in a long three-setter at No. 4.
Losses aside, Green commended teammate Jordan Abergel ’11, who stepped up into the singles lineup for recent matches. Although Abergel dropped his match at No. 6 in a tiebreaker, 6-3, 7-6, Green said he was proud of the freshman’s showing.
But Friday’s loss would quickly be avenged the following afternoon, as the Bulldogs traveled to New Jersey to challenge No. 69 Princeton — a team that had also beaten Penn, 5-2, the previous week.
The doubles point proved the deciding factor in the match, as the Tigers and the Bulldogs split the victories in singles play. Caldwell and Connor Dawson dropped an 8-4 decision at No. 1 doubles, while Jeff Dawson and Bennett came through with an 8-5 victory at No. 2.
With the matches split, both teams looking on and Princeton fans notably vocal, the doubles point came down to Matt Schimmel ’10 and Abergel’s matchup. Down 7-3 and facing multiple matchpoints, the duo fought back to overcome their opponents in a tiebreaker, celebrating a 9-8 (4) victory.
Caldwell described the win in one word: “epic.”
“It meant the difference between winning overall,” Caldwell added. “They both showed a tremendous amount of heart out there, and I was really proud to watch their performance.”
In the singles bracket, Jeff Dawson played at the No. 1 spot and claimed victory, 7-5, when his opponent was forced to retire after one set.
Caldwell and Abergel lost in three-set matches at Nos. 2 and 6, respectively. Tom Santoro ’09 played at No. 5 but could not pull off the win, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Princeton’s Alex Faust.
Rounding out the wins for the Bulldogs were straight-set victories by Connor Dawson, who is in the midst of a three-match winning streak, at No. 3, 6-4, 6-2, and Bennett, 6-3, 6-3.
Princeton head coach Glenn Michibata noted that four of his team’s top six starters had been sidelined, but that Yale came out with a lot of fight.
“The players who were healthy and on the court gave it their best efforts,” he said. “We were simply beat by the better team on Saturday.”
Beating Princeton, in Bennett’s words, “was truly the stuff of dreams.”
The Bulldogs are back at home this weekend as they take on Columbia on Friday and Cornell on Saturday.