The Yale men’s tennis team came into the 2010 season ranked No. 71 in the country in the ITA Division I Men’s Tennis Rankings. But the Elis have moved up to No. 70 — the same position in which they finished last year — and seem poised to continue improving.

“I think we are capable of doing better than our pre-season ranking, and I know my players will not be happy until we do,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “This ranking will definitely serve as motivation to work harder.”

So far, that hard work seems to be paying dividends. The Bulldogs got 2010 off to a good start with a 4–3 win at Radford University on Jan. 30. Yale followed that up with a tough 7–0 loss to the No. 1 University of Southern California in Los Angeles. But the Elis bounced back with a decisive 6–1 victory over Army on Feb. 7.

The Elis are led by captain Connor Dawson ’10, who continues to play this season in spite of a serious wrist injury that may limit him down the stretch.

Behind Dawson is a team built on young talent. Classmates Marc Powers ’13 and John Huang ’13 are currently the No. 1 and 2 singles players, respectively, and fellow underclassmen Eric Blumenkranz ’12 and Joel Samaha ’12 comprise Yale’s top doubles duo.

In their most recent outing, the Bulldogs dropped a tough 4–3 decision to Princeton this past Saturday in the ECAC Division I Men’s Tennis Championships. Powers, Huang and Samaha each won their matches in three sets. On Sunday, the Elis fell by the same score of 4–3 to Brown. But Huang, Calvin Bennett ’11 and Daniel Hoffman ’13 took wins in the No. 2, 3 and 4 singles, respectively.

Despite their losses, the Bulldogs are optimistic they will be able to improve in time for their Ivy League seasonb which opens with a match against Princeton on April 2.

“They were tough teams, and this doesn’t effect our chances of winning Ivies at all,” Powers said after this weekend’s games. “We have to keep working forward and keep improving until the Ivy matches.”

But preparing for the upcoming conference will not be easy, as the Bulldogs face tough competition in their immediate schedule. This coming weekend, the Elis will travel to Annapolis, Md., to play in two matches in less than 16 hours, against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and Navy. The following weekend, the Bulldogs will host local foes Stony Brook, Fairleigh Dickinson and Marist at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center.

The Elis will not host their first Ivy League match until April 9 when they take on Cornell.

In total, the Bulldogs will play 18 more matches in 2010 as they try to build on last year’s No. 70 finish in the national polls.

The Elis return home to host Stony Brook on Feb. 27.