With the overall score tied at three and all eyes on his match, freshman Alex Steinroeder took one more deep breath, tossed the ball into the air, and began the final game. Fifteen-love. Thirty-love. Forty-love. Victory.
With Steinroeder’s win, the match results were final, and Harvard men’s tennis took down Virginia Tech (2-2), 4-3, Saturday afternoon at the Murr Center. Hours later, the winning streak continued as the home team defeated Boston University (0-3), 6-1.
HARVARD 4, VIRGINIA TECH 3
It was not an easy win for the Crimson (6-1), as Steinroeder had to come back and tie his opponent three times in the final set, including a late two-point deficit, in order to give his team the victory over the Hokies.
“I thought it was a really good team effort,” Steinroeder said. “We started off strong in the doubles, and that really set the tone for the match. ”
At the beginning of the afternoon, Harvard earned the doubles point after winning two of the three doubles matches. Partners junior Andy Nguyen and freshman Denis Nguyen as well as co-captain Alistair Felton and sophomore Casey Macmaster defeated their opponents, 8-5 apiece.
In singles play, the competition was much tighter. Early on, senior Jonathan Pearlman fell to Luka Somen, a senior ranked 54th nationally, 6-1, 6-2. Sophomore Christo Schultz rebounded for his teammate, winning 6-3, 6-2, and improving his singles record to 5-0 on the year. Freshman Shaun Chaudhuri followed Schultz’s lead, winning his match, 6-4, 6-3.
Only freshmen Henry Steer and Steinroeder were left playing their opponents in what Felton deemed an “epic battle in the three and four spots.” Steer, who split his first two sets, 6-2, 4-6, went down after a lengthy final set, 4-6. At that point it was all up to Steinroeder, who, one minute and four consecutive points later, took the match for Harvard in a come-from behind victory, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.
“When I was down 6-3, 3-0, it wasn’t looking good,” Steinroeder said. “But I just started focusing on making more serves and making my opponent play. In the third set, even though I was down, I felt like I was playing pretty well. I just wanted to continue playing like that and just see what happened. Luckily, we got the win.”
Felton praised Steinroeder, emphasizing how timely the performance was.
“He pulled off some shots that I just couldn’t believe he made under such pressure,” Felton said. “There was a series of volleys that had me shaking my head in disbelief.”
HARVARD 6, BOSTON UNIVERSITY 1
In the second match of the day, Harvard was in the driver’s seat from start to finish, sweeping doubles play and winning all but one in the singles against the Terriers.
First up for the Crimson was the pair of Schultz and Steer, who, despite having had only 20 minutes since the last match ended, handily defeated their opponent, 8-5. They handed it off to MacMaster and Chaudhuri, who did not lose a set all the way through, winning the match, 8-0, and setting the pace for the rest of the day’s games. Last in doubles play was Felton and sophomore Brendan Seaver, who took down their Boston University counterparts, 8-6.
“That was our best doubles performance of the year so far,” Felton said. “We hardly lost any points on our serves, hardly any at all.”