M. Tennis Gears Up for ECAC Title Run
Blake, Mujmudar anchor veteran squad looking to repeat
The ECAC Tournament is like a freshman placement test. After a relaxing and leisurely summer, an unsuspecting freshman faces academic challenges that reatly affect his future.
The fall tennis season is mostly a series of individual tournaments where college players are on their own. But the ECAC Tournament taking place Friday through Monday in Princeton, N.J., is a major team tournament at the beginning of this fall season. At stake is a spot representing the region in the NCAA Indoor Tournacment and the top regional ranking once the spring season begins.
Is the Harvard men's tennis team working at peak team efficiency? Maybe not, but this past weekend's Fluitt Invitational Tournament in Lexington, Ky., did a lot to prepare the team for this weekend's rigors.
"Last weekend was basically a team match," said co-captain Mike Passarella. "Our No. 1 and down the line. Even though there were not team results, it had that feel. It did a lot to prepare us."
With the graduation of senior stalwarts Tom Blake and Philip Tseng this past spring, the casual observer might think that the 1998 Crimson team is a new-look, inexperienced bunch. However, five of the projected top six played in the ECAC's last year.
"Without Tom and Phil it will definitely be tougher, but we have a team that can compete," Passarella said. "I think this weekend showed that we are not much worse than last year, if at all. James [Blake] is one of the top players in the country and Nos. 6-7 played well. We showed we are ready now."
Blake, an All-American last season as a freshman, will lead the team into battle at Princeton. Behind Blake at No. 1, the other singles spots are not solidified at this point. Senior co-captain Kunj Majmudar and junior John Doran will most likely fill the No. 2 and No.3 spots, in some order. Passarella will probably find himself in one of the next two spots and junior Joe Greene, sophomore Scott Clark, feshmen William Lee and freshman Cillie Swart will somehow fill out the singles kineup.
The team is doubles are well established. At the top slot the team of Blake and Majmudar-who went 6-0 last year-will take the court. The second team will be Doran and Swart, a South African currently ranked second in his country's boy's 18s. Passarella and Clark will round out the doubles lineup.
While everyone has had plenty of singles experience already this season, doubles matches have been a little hard to come by.
"We have been working a lot on [doubles]," Passarella said. "We have the teams down and it is one of the things we feel good about. We have not had as many matches as we would have liked."
The major competition this year seems to be the familiar face of Virginia Tech. In last year's final the Crimson downed the Hokies 4-1. Beyond that, Passarella sees two Ivy League squads as next in line.
"Both Yale and Columbia are going to be tough," Passarella said. "Yale has some strong recruits and have brought their top players back. Columbia is pretty much the same story."
Interestingly this qualifier for the NCAA Indoors is going to be played outside on the courts at Princeton. Passarella felt that the cool weather would be equally bad for everyone, with one possible exception.
"We're used to it up here. Who knows bout Virginia Tech?" Passarella asked. "In years past there have been two nice days and tow lousy days. Hopefully the two good days are late in the weekend, when everyone really needs to play his best."
With no major injuries keeping players out of the lineup, the Crimson seems ready to go. As the defending champions and the draw's top seed, the expectations are understandably high. However, with a talented, battle-tested squad coming off an imprressive showing last weekend, a repeat is not a bad bet.