Dominating the spring hiatus, the Yale men’s tennis team collected six victories in eight matches competing from coast to coast against a bevy of nonconference opponents.
The Bulldogs (10–6, 0–0 Ivy), who entered the break 4–4 on the season, got back on the winning track after a successful two weeks of competition. Starting off with four straight games at home, the Bulldogs dominated the Yale Invitational by sweeping three matches and winning the other 6–1. The Elis then headed west where they picked up crucial wins against Sacramento St. (5–8, 3–1, Big Sky) and Portland (5–9, 0–2 West Coast) before finishing the break with a tough loss back at home.
“We’ve been playing outstanding doubles this spring,” head coach Alex Dorato said. “What has been tremendously rewarding is to see how hard the team is competing and supporting each other in every match. Everyone is playing their best tennis of the season as we head into Ivy League play this weekend.”
Most notably, the Elis did not drop a single doubles point over the entire break. The 6–2 run began when the team tackled the New Jersey Institute of Technology (4–10, 0–2 Atlantic Sun) with a vengeance, sweeping the competition 4–0 on March 9. No. 2 Dylan King ’20 and Nathan Brown ’19 won their doubles matchup 6–4, while No. 3 pairing Andrew Heller ’20 and Arnav Dhingra ’22 won dominantly 6–1. The match was secured with three consecutive singles wins from No. 1 King 6–1, 7–6 on a 7–2 tiebreak; No. 5 Heller 6–3, 6–2; and No. 6 Alan Sou ’21 6–2, 6–1.
Later that afternoon, the Elis faced Marist (6–7, 1–0 MAAC) and cruised to another 4–0 sweep. Again, the doubles point was secured by Yale’s same No. 2 partnership of King and Brown and a new No. 3 pairing of Heller and Sou. In the singles, however, No. 4 Cody Lin ’21, No. 5 Heller and No. 6 Sou closed out the match for the Elis.
As if two sweeps in one day were not enough, Yale extended its dominance with another 4–0 triumph over Fairfield (3–12, 1–0 MAAC) a day later. The No. 1 pairing of Ryan Cheng ’20 and Lin and No. 3 pairing of Sou and Dhingra both won convincingly 6–1. The stalwart partnership of Brown and King were also leading its match 5–2 before play was stopped as three singles victories confirmed the win for the Bulldogs.
“Nate and I have game styles that complement one another really well,” King said. “We’ve played with each other in the past, so we know which strategies are the most effective for us.”
The Bulldogs finished off their home weekend with another match that afternoon, winning 6–1 against Boston University (5–11, 0–0 Patriot). The No. 2 pairing of Brown and King secured an early 6–3 victory while the No. 1 partnership of Cheng and Lin combined to win 6–4 and take the doubles point. In singles, No. 6 Sou won yet again to put the Elis up 2–0, and No. 1 King won his match 6–3, 6–1 to extend the Yale lead to three. At the No. 3 spot, the Terriers picked up their only win. However, No. 2 Cheng won his match 6–4, 6–1 to clinch the victory for the Elis.
Carrying their momentum to the west coast, the Elis took on UC Davis (9–5, 0–0 Big West) but fell to the Aggies 4–2 in Yale’s first outdoor match of the spring on March 14. Continuing previous trends, the Bulldogs again won the doubles point with both the Brown-King and Heller-Dhingra teams winning.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in practice playing with our partners,” Heller said. “So that really helped me and Arnav even though we haven’t played many matches together. It also just speaks to the strength of our first-year class and their ability to jump in and make a big impact right away.”
Moving into singles, however, the Aggies were able to seize control. Early wins at the No. 3 and No. 4 spots gave UCD a 2–1 lead. The Aggies then secured the win with two more victories at No. 6 against Sou and No. 2 against Cheng. The only singles victory for the Elis came from the veteran King in a tight 7–5, 6–4 match.
The next day, the Elis rallied against Sacramento State to prevail 4–3 and found success again on Saturday against Portland, winning 5–2. In Friday’s match against the Hornets, Yale’s reliable No. 2 and No. 3 doubles pairings won the point for Yale yet again. In the singles competition, No. 3 Lin fell in a tight match 6–4, 7–5 to tie the matchup, but Yale would rebut with No. 2 Cheng winning a tight match of his own 7–5, 6–4. To confirm the win, No. 1 King and No. 6 Sou each prevailed in battles that went to three sets.
Against the Pilots, the No. 1 pairing of Cheng and Lin defeated its opponent 6–2 to clinch the doubles point for the Elis. In singles, No. 3 Lin, No. 5 Heller and No. 6 Sou all picked up wins in straight sets to confirm yet another victory for the Elis.
To round out the two weeks of competition, the Bulldogs took on St. John’s (9–5, 0–0 Big East) on their home court, but came up short, losing 4–1. In doubles, Yale gained an early lead with No. 2 Brown and King and No. 3 Heller and Dhingra each winning 6–3. However, the Johnnies then swept the next four singles matches to secure the victory. No. 6 Sou lost individually for the first time all break, breaking his own seven-game winning streak with a score of 6–3, 6–3 against Ognen Trejgut.
“St. John’s was heavily favored,” Dorato said. “So we knew that we have to play to our best to have a shot. We came out strong to take the doubles point. In singles, every match was competitive, and we fought hard, but we didn’t reach the level we needed to in order to pull off the upset.”
The loss to the Johnnies came in the Elis’ second-to-last regular season match before the squad begins Ancient Eight competition. This past weekend also proved that the No. 2 pairing of Brown and King is as formidable as ever with the pair winning its match or leading when play was stopped in all of its last eight games. In addition, No. 6 singles competitor Sou endured his only loss over break against St. John’s.
The Elis conclude their nonconference slate against Buffalo this Saturday and open Ivy play versus Brown on Sunday. Both matches take place at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center at 1 p.m.
Cate Sawkins | firstname.lastname@example.org