The Harvard men's tennis team, handicapped by the absence of four of its top six players, relied on its extensive depth to capture second in the New England championship at the University of Massachusetts this weekend.
The vacuum created by the missing players, who were all participating in other weekend tournaments, proved decisive as Yale marched away with the championship title. Yet the Crimson returned, boasting a "C" division title, a "B" division finalist rank, and several stellar performances from inexperienced squad members who moved up from the J.V. for the tournament.
"Tremendous. We proved what we've been saying all along, that we have about four or five J.V. players who would be playing varsity on any other team around." Coach Dave Fish, who had nothing but praise for his squad, said at the tournament's end.
At the end of the first day of competition, the Crimson stood in second place behind the fully manned Yale squad, but only one Crimson competitor, "C" division player Paul Lennon, had been eliminated. All the remaining players advanced to the quarter-finals.
On Saturday, captain Don Pompan and Michael Terner, the only two players who see regular varsity action, both experienced similar defeats in the "A" division--each dropping to Yale players in the quarterfinals.
The weekend's outstanding performances came from those players who rarely see varsity action. Freshman Robble Wheeler dominated "B" level competition only to lose to Yale's John Steiple in the finals.
"I proved to myself that I can play good tennis." Wheeler said after the match, although Steiple's varsity experience proved crucial in the match's outcome.
In the highlight of both the weekend's tournament and his college career. Tory Kiam's aggressive playing resulted in his capturing the "C" division championship.
"The way we played is indicative of the program's quality teaching at all levels." Wheeler said after the tournament. "At other schools, they take the top six and work only with them. Lower players get discouraged and quit, he added.
"I was really impressed," said Pompan. agreeing with Wheeler. "There was some pressure, and we played a lot of tennis. It's a good tune-up for our upcoming match with Princeton." he added.
A fully manned Crimson squad will confront arch-rival Princeton at Princeton this Wednesday in a battle that will determine the Ivy championship. Both teams boast undefeated records. A Crimson triumph would mark the first time since 1966 that Harvard has captured the title.