M. Tennis Closes League Play Against Dartmouth
After clinching the Ivy League title Sunday against Yale, the Harvard men's tennis team (19-4, 6-0 Ivy) is eyeing league perfection today against Dartmouth (13-7-1, 3-3 Ivy).
Heading to Hanover's Topliff Courts, Harvard expects to extend its eight-match winning streak into its last Ivy League contest of the year.
After a 6-1 drubbing of Yale, the Crimson will square of against the Big Green in its last warm-up before NCAA regional competition. Dartmouth enters the contest on a three-match skid with the most recent coming in a 3-4 loss at Brown.
"To be ready for Dartmouth, we're going to have to keep our focus," sophomore James Blake said. "We've already clinched the Ivy League title, but we don't want to let these guys jump on us."
Though the Big Green boast the experience of a five-senior roster, Harvard's top-to-bottom talent and promising youth have sustained its April run. The surprisingly strong play of freshman William Lee against Yale and previous Ivy League opponents has added depth to the Crimson lineup.
Perhaps the most interesting battle Wednesday will be between Dartmouth senior Rob Simik and Blake, who is currently the top-ranked player in the nation by a wide margin. Simik enters the match with tremendous momentum after an upset victory against Yale's Jon Beardsley and after defeating Brown's Chris Wolf.
Blake easily offed Beardsley on Sunday, 6-4, 6-1, and looks to carry his No. 1 ranking into May. Blake, familiar with Simik, will try to capitalize on his every weakness.
"Simik is a big guy, and a tall guy," Blake said. "And he has a big serve and hits the ball hard."
Today's situation is nothing new for the Crimson, who have overlooked the final Ivy match of the year before.
"Before I got here, the same thing had happened when we had won the title and we went into Dartmouth and got beat up by them," Blake said. "We don't want that to happen ever again. Even Though it's leading up to regionals, we're going to treat it like a regular match."
Wednesday’s tennis match marks the Ivy League finale for Harvard co-captains Kunj Majmudar and Mike Passarella. Majmuder, who did not play in the Yale match due to illness, will return to competition tomorrow. He likely will pair with Blake once again in doubles competition.
Passarella, and the leadership he brings to the team, will be desperately needed as the season, and his Harvard career, comes to a close.
With a win today, the Harvard men's tennis team should solidify its bid for dominance in the region, with NCAA regional play beginning as early as May 14. Should Harvard knife through the nation as easily as they have the Ivy League, the team's season could last even longer than expected.