They may have lost to Harvard, but they’ll always have alumni.
With many team alumni in the stands, the men’s tennis team fell to Harvard 5-2 on Sunday, dropping their Ivy League record to 3-3 and ending their chance at the Ivy title.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” captain Jeff Dawson ’09 said. “The guys fought well — it just didn’t go our way.”
The day began with a promising start as the Elis won two of their three doubles matches. Michael Caldwell ’09 and Connor Dawson ’10 beat their opponents 8-5. Teammates Calvin Bennett ’11 and Joel Samaha ’12 also defeated their Crimson opponents by the same score.
“The doubles set a positive tone,” Jeff Dawson said. “Joel and Calvin were broken early, but they took charge and came back to win the next seven games.”
Of the six teammates to play singles matches, Erik Blumenkrantz ’12, at No. 6, was the only one to win. The captain said Blumenkranz stepped up and notched a good win for the team. Blumenkranz beat Harvard’s Michael Kalfayan in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
“The match went fairly well [overall],” the freshman said. “It was disappointing to lose, obviously, but as a team we played with a lot of intensity. We knew that Harvard was a good team and that it would be a tough match.”
Bennett took his first singles loss of the season when he fell to Harvard’s Aba Omodele-Lucien 6-4, 7-6 this weekend.
After losing to Harvard, the men’s tennis team can no longer win the Ivy League Championship Tennis title. Nevertheless, Jeff Dawson said he thought the Yale-Harvard rivalry added to the level of play from both teams.
“Whether it’s in football or hockey, it’s been a tradition for so many years,” he said. “Both teams come out with a lot of energy and play really good matches against each other.”
That rival’s camraderie environment was present on the tennis courts earlier that day, when both Harvard and Yale alumni participated in their first annual “grudge match,” as Jeff Dawson called it. Like the varsity match, Harvard captured the alumni match as well. But despite Harvard’s win on both fronts, the captain said both the courts and stands were full of energy.
Many of the alumni who played in the morning stayed on to watch the current students battle it out as well: “It was nice to have so many alumni come out for the match,” Blumenkranz said.
Jeff Dawson, who is currently a senior, said he is already looking forward to attending next year’s grudge match as an alumnus.
“It was good to see everyone,” he said. “Next year, we’re going to load up.”
Despite this weekend’s loss and the subsequent end to their Ivy title hopes, both Jeff Dawson and Tom Santoro ’09 said they see lots of potential in next year’s team.
“We’ve got a great group of younger players,” the captain said in reference to Bennet, Samaha, Blumenkranz and Connor Dawson. “Taking some of their experiences this year will really help them be a really deep competitive team next year.”
Santoro added, “The team is looking strong for next year. We have the second-best ranked recruiting class in the country coming in.”
But before they look ahead to next year, the Bulldogs will finish up their season this week when they host Brown on Wednesday.
“We’ve got good momentum going forward,” Jeff Dawson said. “I’m looking forward to going out on a victory.”
Play begins at 2 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.