"We can't possibly be that bad," exclaimed Columbia's new tennis coach, Butch Seewagen, after his squad was bombed, 8-1, by Princeton last week. "You ain't seen nothing yet," replied his captain Larry Parsont, who knows about the rigors of the Lions' EITA schedule.
Ironically, both Seewagen and Parsont have a chance of being proven correct this afternoon, depending upon how seriously the Crimson netmen take the challenge of a talented but inexperienced Columbia team.
The Lions have only Parsont and junior Lioyd Emanuel returning from the starting Iadder that lost to Harvard, 9-0, at New York last Spring. But Seewagen, a ranking U.S. amateur champion who hopes to build Columbia into an Eastern powerhouse and has the freshman team with which to do it, has stocked his ladder with four fairly good sophomores, and has achieved encouraging results so far this season.
Yet, even though the New Yorkers have shut out both Hofstra and Lafayette, and whipped a respectable Dartmouth squad, 7-2, they are still a season away from being a true contender and could only beat. Harvard today if the Crimson is looking past the Lions to tomorrow's title showdown with Princeton.
That match with Princeton, which the Tigers have been gunning for ever since Harvard beat them, 5-4 last year, will decide the EITA title for the third consecutive year.
The Tigers are incredibly strong at the top of the singles ladder, boasting the two top players in the EITA in senior Bobby Goeltz and sophomore Bill Colson, and have quite impressive depth. Harvard's only chance of a victory, it appears, lies in its ability to sweep the matches low on the ladder, take the second doubles contest, and pray for either rain or darkness to move the matches inside, where the tricky, somewhat harder clay courts should work to the Crimson's advantage.
But even if Harvard might be able to slip by Princeton on determination, depth, and guts, the return of senior Rich Howell to the number-three position on the ladder might doom the Crimson's hopes, Howell, who played at number two last year, has missed the last week-and-a-half of competition because of a National Guard hassle that kept him shuttling between the college and Atlanta, but he will definitely play this weekend, much to the Crimson's disadvantage.
During Howell's absence the Tigers have been using Rick Weir at three and a doubles team of Goeitz and Colson at number one-with neither replacement being very effective. If Princeton had gone with the same lineup today, Harvard's chances of winning at those spots-both extremely vital-would have been realistic. But with Howell back, Harvard junior Chris Nielsen may be in over his head at number three, and Nielsen and Washauer will be underdogs against Howell and Colson at first doubles.
With unbeaten Joe Cavanagh and Bill Brock at four and five the Crimson should win at both positions, and Cavanagh and Dave Fish are a good bet at second doubles. But assuming Howell's appearance and barring upsets, Princeton should win the match and the EITA title-alone this time.