The Harvard men's tennis team soundly defeated both Army and Cornell this weekend to clinch the Eastern League Championship and its accompanying NCAA berth, the first in the history of Crimson tennis.
"We set out to prove that we're the Rolls Royce of the Ivy League--and we did it," an elated team captain Don Pompan said at the weekend's end.
The double sweep brings the team's league record to an undefeated 9-0, and 11-5 overall. The Crimson's unblemished league performance guarantees the squad sole possession of the Eastern title, an honor which has eluded the team's grasp for 16 years.
"It feels great. It's a milestone we've been working hard at for quite a while," head coach Dave Fish said.
Fish, who will be Harvard's first tennis coach to escort a squad to the nationals, credits the stellar season to the team's superb depth. He cites freshman Robbie Wheeler's ability to step in successfully for the injured Adam Berin at the crucial Princeton confrontation as typical of the team's down-the-line strength.
This weekend proved anti-climatic after last Wednesday's thrilling defeat of a seasoned Princeton team. That only a skeleton squad was needed to travel to Army Friday foreshadowed the solid but not flashy play that was to highlight the Crimson performance.
At West Point, the Crimson proceeded to dispatch its Army opponents with ease, going on to capture a flawless 9-0 win, with only freshmen Rob Loud and Wheeler going the full three sets.
The story repeated itself at Cornell Saturday, as the Crimson proceeded to dispose of its Big Red counterparts with workmanlike precision.
Number-one player Howard Sands led the team, easily disposing of his opponent, 6-1, 6-2. His teammates quickly followed suit, dropping only one match by the day's end.
"It was tough to get motivated," Pompan said, admitting that team thoughts were focused more on next weekend's NCAA championship at Athens, Georgia. Still soaking in the euphoria of its recent victory, the team readily recognizes the big-time challenges that awaits it.
Only 16 teams from across the nation are selected to compete at this prestigious tournament--which hosts the elite of college tennis. The Crimson could, depending on first-round draws, confront such powerhouses as UCLA or Pepperdine--not to mention the star-studded array of lesser dieties.
"If everybody plays their best--not just solid--but their best tennis, we can pull off the big win," is Pompan's assessment of team hopes.