The Yale men’s tennis team played the very best the nation has to offer last weekend, as it faced off against No. 2 Ohio State and Tulsa in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Kick-Off Weekend. Although the Bulldogs came up short, they emerged with a number of takeaways that will help them as they move forward.
The Elis (2–3, 0–0 Ivy) played a pair of games this weekend at the ITA Kick-Off, which featured some of the top teams in the nation. On Saturday, the Bulldogs were trounced by the home team No. 2 Buckeyes (4–0, 0–0 Big Ten). The Elis returned the next day, losing again in an extremely close 4–3 game against the Golden Hurricanes (3–3, 1–0 American Athletic).
“We don’t get many opportunities to play on a stage like that and I really enjoyed it,” Andrew Heller ’20 said. “It’s also good for the team to get blown out of the water like that sometimes because it really shows how much harder we can work to improve, myself included.”
In the opening day of competition, the Buckeyes proved to be an insurmountable opponent. OSU quickly asserted its dominance in the opening doubles matches, winning both the No. 2 and No. 3 matches 6–1 and 6–2, respectively. The No. 1 senior pairing of captain Stefan Doehler ’18 and Fedor Andrienko ’18 was cut short at 5–2 as the doubles point is earned best two out of three.
Ohio continued its winnings in the singles matches to seal a 4–0 victory. OSU defeated No. 3 and No. 6 challengers Doehler and Nathan Brown ’19 in straight-sets, 6–1, 6–1 and 6–0, 6–1, respectively. In under an hour of singles play, the Buckeyes were up 3–0 with just one more point needed to win. This came soon after when they won at No. 4 against Yale’s Dylan King ’20 6–3, 6–0.
However, in the unfinished games, Yale seemed to be gaining momentum and rising to the level of the competition. Because all other matches were then cut short, the lopsided victory does not show that Yale’s Heller was in a close 2–2 second set with national No. 5 Mikael Torpegaard at the No. 1 spot. Similarly, No. 2 Ziqi Wang ’18 was winning his second set 4–3, while No. 5 Andrienko was also winning his second set, this time 1–3.
“I would have liked to finish the matches against Ohio State,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “It was a great learning experience to play against the very best college players in the country. But we still got a lot out of it even though we had to stop the matches once the team match was clinched.”
Following the loss against the Buckeyes, the Bulldogs had a quick turnaround before playing Tulsa on Sunday. The Bulldogs got off to a good start in the doubles competition. No. 2 King and Ryan Cheng ’20 did not drop a single set as they added to their three-match winning streak as a pair this season. They were backed up by No. 3 Wang and Heller, who won their match 6–2 to snag the doubles point.
In the singles competition, Yale built a 3–0 lead before dropping to 3–2 and then narrowly losing the last two crucial points to the Golden Hurricanes. No. 6 Andrienko opened up with a 6–2, 6–0 victory, followed by No. 5 King with a 6–3, 6–2 win over his Tulsa challenger.
However, the momentum turned, Doehler was in a tight match in which he narrowly lost both sets 7–5, 7–6(5).
“While it stung that we couldn’t pull off the win, I was extremely proud of the intensity the guys brought to the match,” Doehler said. “Everyone was a fighter that day. That will be the greatest measure of our success this year: being fierce competitors regardless of the score or opponent.”
With the score tied 3–3, only Cheng’s match at No. 4 remained. After winning the first set handily 1–6, Cheng fell in the second set 6–4, pushing the game to a third set. In the end, Cheng played until a 5–5 tie, before losing the next two games to finish the set 7–5.
Leaving Columbus, Yale walked away with two losses, but can look forward to the rest of the season after gaining important experience.
The Bulldogs are set to play again in three weeks at the ECAC Indoor Championships.
Cate Sawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org