The Princeton men's tennis team knew all of the answers before it played Harvard.
The Tigers knew they could clinch at least a share of the Ivy title--and possibly a berth in the NCAA Tournament--by beating the Crimson.
But six hours and six matches later, Princeton was left asking one question: what happened?
The Crimson recorded a 5-1 thriller over Princeton in front of 20 spectators Monday at Palmer Dixon Courts. Harvard finished its season with an 11-8 overall record (4-4 EITA).
"The enormity of this victory is rivaled only by Villanova's upset of Georgetown [in the 1985 NCAA basketball finals]," Harvard Co-Captain Arkie Engle said.
"I wasn't surprised by Harvard," a somber Princeton Coach Dave Benjamin said. "We've always had close matches. I definitely didn't think it would be decided in singles. If they had played like this all season, they would have gone undefeated. We were beaten by the better team."
Benjamin decided not to send out his doubles teams for play because by then the match had been decided and the Tigers had to travel to Dartmouth for a match the next day.
Princeton started off fast, capturing the first set in each of the first three singles matches. But the Crimson players fought back to win the second and third sets in two of the three matches.
"It was one of the most absolutely incredible turnaround matches that I've been apart of during my 12 years here," Harvard Coach Dave Fish said. "I told the guys that they were going to have their day, I just didn't know when."
At number one singles, Jon Cardi, the freshman sensation, dropped the first set to Jacob Leschly, 7-6 (7-4), but rallied to win the seesaw second set in the tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-5).
But in the third and final set, Leschly pulled out a 6-3 decision.
In the number two singles match, Harvard's Mark Leschly, Jacob's younger brother, lost a tight first set, 6-4. But the sophomore turned it around and pulled out a 7-5 victory.
Leschly controlled the third set at the baseline and net, cruising to a 6-1 triumph.
At number-three singles, Engle sliced, diced and drop volleyed his way to a three-set thriller over Steve Hentschel. After dropping the first set, 7-5, Engle quickly rallied to a 6-3 victory in the second set.
In the third and final set, Engle won four of the first five games to take a 4-1 lead, but Hentschel fought back to tie the game at 5-5.
Engle, who was playing aggressively at the net, made some remarkable shots that just died in front of Hentschel, en route to winning the final two games, set and match. Engle's victory gave the Crimson a 2-1 lead with three more singles matches remaining.
Taming of the Tigers
"The guys played the type of tennis that they were capable of playing," Harvard Co-Captain Paul Palandjian said. "The most important thing was that they came together at the end of the year, which is a good precedent for next year."
"If Princeton is the Tigers," Palandjian said, "then we are the Harvard zookeepers."