The women's tennis team used to be the best in the East. Now, its future isn't nearly as bright and players are...
The Harvard women's tennis team has defined the word "dynasty" on the East Coast: winners of nine of the last 10 Ivy League titles, the Crimson has not been ranked lower than fifth in the East for the last 10 years.
But this year is different. Harvard is ranked an unprecedented 15th in the East and has already stumbled over previously beatable opponents in the fall.
The formula is fairly simple: injuries, the departure of eight key players (most of them seniors) and a growing discontent with third-year Head Coach Gordon Graham.
"Gordon's a very nice person," junior Co-Captain Melissa McNabb said. "But you've got to question his coaching ability."
Since Graham took over the helm in 1991, a series of increasingly disasterous events has befallen the team, incidents which have gone hand-in-hand with the team's decline.
The first sign of trouble occured in April 1991, when Harvard was on the brink of winning a ninth consecutive Ivy championship.
In a late-season match against Brown, Graham substituted number-seven player senior Rachel Pollock into the lineup as a replacement for number-five Jenn Minkus '92, who had a pulled muscle in her calf.
Because number-six senior Erika Elmuts had already started her match when Graham made the decision to rest Minkus, Pollock had to jump two positions to play number-five.
Rules state that once a player starts a match, she must play it out to the very end. Under normal circumstances, Elmuts would have moved up one position from number-six to number-five and Pollock would move to number-six.
Brown Coach Norma Taylor accused Graham of purposefully starting the Elmuts match, then inserting Pollack in Minkus' slot in an effort to stack Harvard's line-up.
Harvard won the match, 5-4, but the Committee of Ivy League Coaches agreed with Taylor's protest and reversed the outcome, giving Brown the victory and costing Harvard the Ivy title.
"Everyone on the team was pretty upset," McNabb said. "He didn't do it intentionally...although he didn't feel he screwed up."