Harvard Closes Season with Win
The match may not have been as epic as the 2008 Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, but the season finale for the Harvard men’s tennis team could not have been any closer.
Yesterday, the Crimson (15-10, 4-3 Ivy) traveled to Hanover, N.H. to face off against the Big Green (13-7, 4-3) at Dartmouth’s Alexis Boss Tennis Center.
The match came down to the wire, but Harvard ended up edging out the victory, 4-3. The win allowed the Crimson to continue its dominance in the all-time series over the Big Green, which Harvard leads, 67-7.
“Another close 4-3 match,” Harvard coach Andrew Rueb said. “The Ivy League this year has been extremely competitive and tight. Everyone knew it was going to be 4-3 before the match started…It’s all about the little things you can do to stay positive in a tough match or turn a match around when you’re down a set. That’s really what defines this Ivy League season.”
“It’s always good to end on a win,” junior Jon Pearlman continued. “It was good to come through on this one. There have been a lot of tight matches and we lost a couple that could have gone either way in the beginning of the season.”
Coming into the matchup, Dartmouth had played in five straight one-point matches. The Big Green lost the first two of these duals, but then responded with three consecutive wins.
On the other hand, the Crimson was coming off a close 4-3 loss to Brown.
If history were any indication, though, Harvard would dominate the matchup. In the previous 74 meetings between the two teams, the Crimson has won 67 of the matches, including 19 straight since 1994.
“Harvard men’s tennis has only lost to Dartmouth seven times in its history,” junior Ali Felton said. “So it would have been somewhat humiliating to be part of the teams that lost, [although the Big Green is] pretty good this year.”
The Crimson started out the matchup by losing all three of its doubles matches to give the Dartmouth the early 1-0 advantage.
But Harvard responded in singles, picking up four individual wins. Pearlman won his first set 6-2 and wasted little time in the second set, bageling his opponent, 6-0, and tying the score in the overall match, 1-1.
“I played a lot of long points and tried to be aggressive when I could,” Pearlman said. “My opponent was inconsistent and I capitalized on that and just tried to play back as many balls as possible.”
Sophomores Andy Nguyen and Josh Tchan both won their respective matches in three sets.
Captain Aba Omodele-Lucien lost his match and freshman Casey MacMaster followed with another loss in the third set, 6-4, after splitting the opening two.
With the score tied at three games apiece, Harvard’s chance at ending the regular season with a victory rested on Felton’s shoulders.
Felton and his opponent split the first two sets, as the junior took the first, 7-6, but then lost the second set by the same score.
With both teams gathered around to watch the final set, Felton prevailed in the third set, 6-4, giving Harvard the win.
“It was very close and very, very long,” Felton said. “I got ahead [in the first set] and there were a lot of ties and he pegged me back [in the second set]. I never lost my head. I just kept to my game plan and just managed to win in the end. [I] really fought for every single ball.”
While the Crimson will not advance to the postseason, the squad finished the season on a high note.
“It is very nice to end with a very good team effort with a win,” Rueb said. “Everybody contributed and it’s a good way to finish off our 2011 season.”