Harvard's tennis team begins an uphill defense of its share of the EITA title this afternoon when it plays host to Navy at 2 p.m., but barring unforeseen disaster, the Crimson should not be in significant danger of falling by the wayside-at least not yet.
For despite their 6-3 triumph over Brown yesterday at Providence, the Middies are weaker than the squad that lost 8-1 to Harvard at Annapolis last spring, and on the Crimson's courts, can hardly be expected to do much better.
Bob Cowin, Navy's big gun last year, has graduated, as has John Bunker, who won the only match for the Middies in last spring's loss. So coach Bobby Bayliss has been forced to install a sophomore, Gordon Perry, at the number one position, and although he has four veterans at his disposal, is uncertain both where to play them on the ladder and whether the ranking will make much difference today anyway.
Captain George Galdorisi, senior Cutler Dawson and juniors Clay Stiles and Bob Custer are the veterans, and although they will fill the second through fourth spots on the Annapolis ladder today, Bayliss has shifted them around several times this Spring in an effort to achieve acceptable balance.
At doubles, the teams are set only at number one. Dawson, a representative competitor, will team with Perry to face Harvard's tandem of Chris Nielsen and Bill Washauer, and it is there, as well as at first and second singles, that Navy must win if it hopes to pull an upset, or even stay close.
Undoubtedly, the singles matches should be somewhat closer than the four straight set routs that the Crimson handed Navy last year. Harvard's ladder is not quite as strong this time.
But the Middies will be using last spring's fifth and sixth singles men high in the ladder today, as will the Crimson, and last year, the Crimson was vastly superior at those two spots.
Washauer, who beat Galdorisi, 6-3, 6-4, last year, and Nielsen, who swept Stiles, 7-5, 6-1, will play at first and second singles today for the Crimson, and should be able to come close to those scores again against opponents who are fairly equal in talent throughout the top five spots.
The best match of the day could be that which pits Custer against either Dave Fish or Joe Cavanagh at either three or four, Custer gave Harvard's Larry Terrell a stiff battle for half a match last year, and could be a good foil for either of the Crimson entrants.
Harvard will probably not be able to duplicate last spring's rout today. If nothing, Navy has experience. But the Crimson is aware that it ability to overpower is gone, and it has adjusted well.