After losing to Dartmouth and Harvard this past weekend, the Yale men’s tennis team took Monday off to rest and recover from its two defeats. The brief hiatus from play allowed the downcast Bulldogs to reflect on their performance and forge a new plan for the upcoming competition.
Although the sting of losing two winnable matches lingers, the Elis (15–6, 1–2 Ivy) have two chances to redeem themselves this weekend. Yale will host Princeton (10–11, 0–2) on Saturday and Penn (13–8, 0–2) on Sunday, two teams which, despite their 0–2 conference records, pose threats to the Bulldogs on their home courts.
“We can definitely beat Penn and Princeton,” doubles specialist Photos Photiades ’17 said. “We need to have a really good week of practice and compete our asses off on the weekend to get the win. I think it’s very important to win those matches to justify our position of where we believe we belong in the Ivy League right now.”
Against Harvard, Photiades contributed to a win at No. 3 doubles that spurred the Elis to an encouraging doubles-point victory. However, Yale’s pairs will need to take their level of play one notch higher against a Princeton doubles lineup that features the No. 31 duo in the country in Luke Gamble and Alexander Day.
Though the duo has amassed an impressive resume over the course of this season, the top-ranked tandem in the Ivy League will face stiff competition against the Elis’ Fedor Andrienko ’18 and Alex Hagermoser ’17, both of whom are fresh off a gritty 7–5 win of their own against Harvard’s No. 74-ranked doubles team.
At the second doubles position, Stefan Doehler ’18 and Dylan King ’20 have left the gates slowly but are hopeful that more practice together will yield better results.
“[Stefan and I] just started playing together,” King said. “Even though we lost both of our matches over the weekend, I think that both of our game styles match up pretty well. I think if we get a little more experience playing with each other, things will start to click a little bit more.”
Like Princeton, Penn will arrive in New Haven following losses to No. 20 Columbia and No. 25 Cornell, the two best teams in the Ivy League. Nevertheless, the Quakers have dominated in singles throughout the season, with strong showings against Harvard and the Big Red and sweeps of Denver and William & Mary. Junior Josh Pompan and sophomore Kyle Mautner made Quaker history in January as the first pair of teammates simultaneously ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association top-120. Both have proven instrumental for Penn this season, notching individual wins in the 4–2 loss to Cornell and a win against current No. 29 Wisconsin.
The Elis will need to rebound on the singles front after flailing this past weekend with a combined 2–7 record against the Big Green and the Crimson. In the seven contests prior to this two-match weekend, Yale’s No. 1 through No. 4 singles had accumulated a combined 22–2 record.
“We didn’t capitalize on our own strength which was our singles,” Photiades said. “Especially our No. 1 through No. 4, we expect to be better.”
No. 2 Ziqi Wang ’18 boasted a 12–1 singles record and an eight-match singles streak earlier this season until California’s No. 48 Andre Goransson put an end to the junior’s run on March 22. Captain and No. 62 Tyler Lu ’17 has led by consistent example as the Bulldogs’ top seed. His most recent 6–2, 6–4 victory over Harvard’s Sebastian Beltrame improved his singles record this season to 14–2 overall and 3–0 against Ivy competition.
Despite his individual resume, Lu is focused on the team’s next matches and regaining the confidence it initially had coming into the weekend versus Dartmouth and Harvard.
“I do think that [we] need to press reset,” Lu said. “We all need to put in the work this week, and that will allow us to have confidence ahead of this next weekend.”
Several other team members and coaches expressed sentiments similar to Lu’s and feel determined to shed any negative takeaways from last week’s losses and to train harder in preparation for Penn and Princeton. With wins against the Quakers and Tigers, the Bulldogs would distance themselves from the bottom teams in the conference and close the gap on Ivy League leaders Columbia and Harvard, which play each other on Saturday.
“Our guys work hard, they’re smart, they understand what they have to do to get better,” assistant coach Christian Appleman said. “The good thing also about our guys is they love the competition. They love competition, they can’t wait to get back out on the court.”
Yale will begin play against Princeton at Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center on Saturday at 1 p.m. before hosting Penn at 1 p.m. the following day.