In its final tournament of the fall season, the Harvard men’s tennis team competed at the Tribe Invitational held at William and Mary over the weekend.
On Friday, the team went 8-3, taking three of the four doubles matches against its Tribe opponents. The Crimson fared worse on Saturday, going 2-6, but won eight of the nine singles matches on Sunday.
Playing the top line for Harvard, sophomore Denis Nguyen lost a close decision to Notre Dame’s Greg Andrews—the No. 24 ranked player in the country—on Saturday, 2-6, 7-6, 11-9. The result came on the heels of a Friday loss against William and Mary’s Jamie Whiteford—who is ranked 43rd—7-6, 6-3. Sophomore Henry Steer was able to pull out the lone three-set victory for the Crimson on Saturday with a 2-6, 7-6(7-4), 17-15 triumph over the Tribe’s Aaron Chaffee.
“I think that the progress has been good throughout the fall,” assistant coach Andrew Rueb said. “The goal is to continue to build so that you are playing your best tennis by Ivies. I think that everyone has something that they can take away from this weekend and say that they are improving on. As a coach, that’s all you can ask for.”
After winning the A draw in the season’s penultimate tournament—the Harvard Halloween Classic—freshman Kelvin Lam and Nguyen fell, 8-4, in the first round on Friday. Harvard, which won both doubles draws at the previous tournament, suffered four losses in doubles on Saturday, but won three of the four matches played on Sunday.
In the spring, the team switches from competing as individuals to having its results counted as a team, playing dual matches instead of tournaments. Steer said that the dual match atmosphere is much different than that of the fall tournaments.
“There is a lot more energy in the spring matches,” Steer said. “It’s more of a real team atmosphere because everything we’ve been working for is riding on every match, and you have guys who aren’t playing really cheering…from the sidelines. It adds an energy to the match when the guys on either side of you are really affecting you, which isn’t like how it is in the fall.”
With two months between the Tribe Invitational and the first competition of the spring—the Jan. 18-20 Harvard Winter Invite, where Boston College, Marist, and Fordham will visit Cambridge—the Crimson has its only long break of the season.
“This is a perfect time to work on our fitness and run a lot more,” co-captain Andy Nguyen said. “We can work on playing more points amongst each other and in the gym, running, and lifting so that we can get as fit as we possibly can. Another short-term goal is growing mentally tougher as a team so that we are always fighting and letting the other guy know that we are never going to back down.”
As the only senior on a team that features 12 underclassmen on its 14-man roster Nguyen has the most collegiate tennis experience. He said that he tries to use what he has learned to shape a positive team dynamic.
“I want to instill a mentality in the guys early on so that they know what to expect come the spring,” Nguyen said. “What it takes to win a college match is a lot different than what it takes to win a junior tennis match. It’s all about instilling a certain mentality and trying to portray that on the court myself so that they can copy that.”
Nguyen said he hopes that the team can improve upon its second-round finish in the NCAA tournament from last year, but that Harvard is focused on the future and not the past.
“We’re trying to start fresh,” Nguyen said. “I know that we did do well last year, but we don’t want that lingering on us. We are starting completely new and working with this mentality that we have something to fight for. We haven’t done anything yet this year.”