While the majority of Harvard students were either preparing for or recovering from midterm exams last weekend, six members of the Harvard Club Tennis Team traded books for rackets to compete in the 6th Annual United States Tennis Association (USTA) Team Tennis National Campus Championship, in San Diego, Calif.
Out of 48 teams, including such big-name schools as Texas A&M, UCLA, Duke and Stanford, Harvard came in third place, improving from their seventh-place finish last year.
“We were the underdogs,” said Jennifer E. Novak ’06, one of the co-presidents of the women’s team. “We did better than we ever could have hoped for.”
Five seniors and one junior represented the Crimson at this year’s tournament. Two of them, Christina H. Chen ’05 and Andrew C. Rabens ’05, were former Varsity players. According to their teammates, their experience played a key role in the team’s success.
“The strength of the team came from Christina and Andy,” Heather C. Higgins ’05 said.
Novak, Higgins, Samuel M. Ganzfried ’05 and David H. Perlmutter ’05 had played at the tournament the year before, when it was held in Daytona Beach, Fla., so the group was well-acquainted.
“A lot of us had known each other previously before the trip,” Chen said. “Having a small group of people made it a lot of fun.”
During the first two days of competition, Harvard beat all five of its opponents, including Duke and Stanford, to move on to the Gold, or championship, Bracket.
On Saturday, the team defeated Virginia by a score of 30-15 to advance to the semifinals—but then fell, 25-20, to Texas A&M, who defeated state rival Texas, 26-22, for its second straight title. Harvard then beat UCLA’s blue squad by a score of 27-24 to claim third place.
Harvard was one of the smallest schools to advance to the championship bracket. Bigger schools were not only able to bring more players to the tournament than Harvard, but also brought coaching staffs and crowd support.
Nevertheless, the team was pleased with their performance.
“We did a pretty phenomenal job for a small school,” Higgins said.
To make the trip, the players sacrificed more than a few days of class to compete: airfare, hotel, and meal expenses, which added up to more than $500 per person, were paid out of pocket.
This is because club sports are not funded by Harvard’s Athletic Department. Normally, to defray travel costs, such teams apply for funding from outside sources.
Ganzfried, who was president of the men’s team, assumed the role of organizing the trip. He has been in constant contact with the New England branch of the USTA (NEUSTA), which he hopes will help alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with the trip.
“NEUSTA wants to do everything possible for teams to come [to the tournament] without a financial strain,” he said. “They sound enthusiastic [about helping us].”
In addition to collecting dues this year, the team plans to request funding from the Undergraduate Council, despite failing to receive funding last year.
The players welcomed the time away from Cambridge and appreciated the much warmer climate.
“It was incredible going to San Diego,” Ganzfried said.
“We got to play outdoors, which never happens in Cambridge, as well as go to the beach,” Chen added.
The combination of a strong finish and playing in a beautiful atmosphere has encouraged the team to continue its efforts to compete at a higher level. Players also hope their performance will increase awareness of club tennis on campus.
“Being there made us realize where we can go with our program,” Novak said. “We definitely plan on going [to the tournament] from now on.