Coming into the ECAC Indoor Championships on a three-game losing streak, the Yale men’s tennis team came up with a 2–1 record against two Ivy League opponents — Princeton and Brown — and Monmouth University.
All of the Ancient Eight, with the exception of Columbia, participated in the eight-team tournament, which took place over three days. The championship crown was claimed by No. 1 Dartmouth, which outlasted No. 2 Harvard in the final. The No. 5 Bulldogs advanced to a 4–4 record on the season, after wins against seventh- and eighth-seeded Brown and Monmouth, respectively, and a defeat to No. 4 Princeton.
After three weeks without a match, the Elis struggled in their first match against Princeton, losing 4–0.
“The team was lacking some match toughness and it definitely showed,” captain Stefan Doehler ’18 said. “The Princeton guys just came out firing and got off to a quick start, and we never really could recover. The main takeaways were that we could do a better job keeping our energy up throughout the match and that we needed to focus on getting explosive starts in both singles and doubles.”
The Tigers won all the completed singles matches in straight sets. Nevertheless, both completed doubles matches were closely fought affairs, with the team of Fedor Andrienko ’18 and Doehler falling 7–5 and the team of Ryan Cheng ’20 and Dylan King ’20 losing 6–4.
The Bulldogs moved onto the losers’ bracket, where they played Monmouth, seeded last in the tournament. Yale swept the Hawks 4–0, winning all completed singles and doubles fixtures. Doehler and Andrienko won their respective singles matches in straight sets 6–3, 6–1 and 6–4, 6–4, while the doubles team of King and Nathan Brown ’19 won their game 6–3 and Ziqi Wang ’18 and Andrew Heller ’20 secured a 6–0 victory.
“We did well against Monmouth, and I think getting off to a strong start in doubles really helped us there,” Heller said. “They’re a solid team, but we did a good job of closing them out after the doubles point.”
On the third and final day, the Elis moved on to face Brown, coming from behind to win 4–2. The day began with doubles play, with the Bulldogs claiming supremacy. A 6–2 win from Andrienko and Doehler and a 6–4 victory from Heller and Wang decided the doubles point. Entering singles play, Brown fell in straight sets against the Bears. But the remaining singles matches were closer fought affairs, with all five reaching three sets. Wang lost the No. 2 game 5–7, 6–3, 6–0, while Andrienko came back from a set down to win 3–6, 6–4, 6–4. Doehler, too, won 6–2, 3–6, 6–4, leaving Heller to clinch the fixture for the Bulldogs, winning 4–6, 6–4, 6–3.
“The win against Brown was one of the grittiest comebacks that I’ve ever been a part of,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “We played fantastic to win the doubles point but then dropped five of six first sets in singles. Nate Brown lost in straight sets, but the remaining five singles matches went to a deciding third set with the only loss coming [from] No. 2 Ziqi Wang.”
Doehler said Yale played its best tennis of the season against Brown. He especially praised Heller’s grit to finish off the third set and clinch the overall match.
“[Heller’s] work ethic all year has been absolutely incredible,” Doehler said. “He fully deserved the win today.”
The 2–1 overall record at the championships brought Yale’s overall record back to .500 for the season, after previous losses to Florida Atlantic, Ohio State and Tulsa.
“Even though the weekend overall held great results, there is still a lot of room for us to improve,” Doehler said. “I’m excited to see what spring season brings once all the pieces start coming together.”
The Bulldogs next take the court at William and Mary on Feb. 24.
Bill Gallagher | email@example.com