For the Harvard men's tennis team, last weekend was simply a matter of being in the right place at the wrong time.
The Crimson was definitely where it had hoped to be in mid-May when it arrived in Athens, Ga.--the site of the 1991 NCAA Championship--last Wednesday, but unfortunately, Harvard was the only school still in exam period.
The strain of being pulled in so many directions showed as the Crimson (17-6 overall, 10-0 EITA) suffered a first round 5-1 loss to Texas Christian University, the 17th-ranked team in the country.
Harvard's defeat marks the end of a spectacular season in which the Crimson won its third straight Ivy League title and second Eastern Intercollegiate Tennis Association championship in three years. The 13th-ranked Crimson had won 13 straight matches before its first round loss to the Horned Frogs last weekend.
"Everyone was thinking about finals," Harvard's fifth-singles player Derek Brown said. "Some of us had finals the day of the match. With the pressures of both school and the tournament constantly upon us, it was hard to be completely at ease for anything."
Although Harvard has been eliminated from team competition, the Crimson will compete in both the NCAA singles and doubles championships, which commence Tuesday. The Crimson's doubles tandem of Michael Shyjan and Michael Zimmerman will participate in the doubles tourney, and Zimmerman and Albert Chang will both play in the singles competition. Shyjan was awarded an alternate spot for the singles championship, and Chang and Brent LaTanzi are alternates for the doubles championship.
Only Shyjan, the number-three singles player, managed to win a match against the Horned Frogs. Shyjan, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago, didn't compete in the Princeton contest, but his victory last weekend showed that he is healthy and ready for the NCAA doubles tourney.
Shyjan lost the first set, 6-2, but bounced back to win the final two sets handily, 6-3, 6-2. Harvard's first and second singles players Zimmerman and Chang both fell in straight sets.
"Without question, the heat had an effect on us," Brown said. "We worked out last week in our sweats in preparation for the high temperatures and humidity, but it just was not the same. TCU, the heat, and the humidity wore us down."
Brown should know. His singles match was the longest of the day--over three hours in 90-degree heat. Brown spent much of his time hitting long rallies from the back-court as he picked his way to a 7-6 first-set victory. As the rest of the team watched, Brown battled back from a 5-0 second-set deficit to force the set into a tie-breaker.
"Making that comeback took a lot out of me," Brown said.
Brown lost the second set tie-breaker, 8-6, and then dropped the third set, 6-3.
The 5-1 final tally is deceiving. If Brown or one of his teammates had somehow managed to win another match, the team would have been down only 4-2, and the contest would have been decided by doubles competion. There is good reason to believe that the Crimson might have stormed past TCU on the doubles court.
Harvard's first doubles team of Shyjan and Zimmerman has been undefeated in EITA competion this season, and this duo was ranked as high as third in the country last year. The Crimson's other doubles pairings--LaTanzi and Chang, and Jon Cardi and John Tolmie--have been effective weapons this season when called upon.