NEW HAVEN, Conn.--"This is pitiful," Harvard's Scott Walker said here under the shadow of the Yale Bowl late yesterday afternoon, soaking his sprained ankle in an icepack while the Harvard tennis team fell quickly behind in the doubles competition against Yale.
And indeed it was pitiful, as the mighty Elis decisively quashed the Crimson's upset bid, 6-3, by striking quickly for four one-sided singles wins, then cruising home with a pair of doubles victories.
"It would have helped to have Scott," a quiet coach Dave Fish said afterward. Minus Walker--who had won the New England "A" doubles and "B" singles titles last weekend before damaging the ankle in practice Monday night--Fish's troops never really got a grip on the match, and their Eastern League record fell to 4-1. The loss dealt a serious--but by no means fatal--blow to the Crimson's quest for the league crown.
Senior Jack Cobetto led the Eli charge, as he did what is known in tennis jargon as "zoning." Cobetto opened by destroying Andy Chaikovsky in less than an hour at third singles, 6-2, 6-1, then he teamed with Bill Brady to clinch the team victory with an easy win at third doubles.
"I'd have to say that's the best I've played all year," Cobetto said afterward.
Harvard, for its part, had a couple of stellar performances to boast about, most notably those of freshmen Don Pompan and Bob Horne.
Pompan played his best tennis to date in the third set of his number two singles match with fellow Southern Californian John Stiepel, winning, 7-5, 2-6, 6-0, and preventing Yale from running away with the contest.
"I was wasting him on my returns, and I was really psyched," Pompan said afterward. "And it helped that I got by on a couple of three-all points."
Earlier, Horne had given the Crimson its first singles win--in the face of three early defeats--with a snappy 6-3, 6-3 victory over Brady at number six.
Despite those wins, the score stood at 3-2 Yale following Cobetto's win, and straight-set losses by Greg Kirsch and Todd Lundy--who never really got going at number one singles against talented Eli Matt Doyle in Lundy's first attempt to come back from a rib injury.
At that point, the Crimson needed a clean sweep in the doubles to pull off the upset. Cobetto and Brady quickly killed that notion by defeating Pompan and Kirsch, 6-2, 6-3.
Lundy and Chaikovsky engineered a three-set victory over the Elis' highly-touted number one pairing of Doyle and Cary Leeds, and Shaw and John Fishwick--Walker's sub--lost a close three-setter at second doubles, but by that point the matches were irrelevant.
"I'm really happy," Yale coach Steve Griggs said after the match. "Anytime Yale plays Harvard in anything it's a big deal, and for me, I just feel good about the way we finished up the season."
The match ended Yale's regular schedule, leaving them 13-6, and 8-1 in the league, the lone loss in their last 11 contests coming at the hands of Princeton. Harvard, on the other hand, now stands 8-4, and 4-1 in the league, with four matches--including the May 9 showdown versus first-place Princeton--remaining.
"Going into the match slightly injured really took some of the wind out of our sails in terms of being mentally psyched," captain Lundy said, added, "It just seemed kind of anticlimactic to me."
As the rest of the Crimson squad showered in Yale's fieldhouse after the loss, Walker sat on the curb next to the bus, looking down.
"What can you say?" Walker asked, glancing up.
And at the time, that was about the only thing to say about the kind of day the Harvard tennis team had.