As the final shot was marked good on Sunday afternoon, the Harvard men’s tennis team could breathe a sigh of relief. With Friday’s 5-2 victory over Yale at the Beren Tennis Center and Sunday’s 4-3 win over Brown at the Paul Bailey Pizzitola Memorial Sports Center, the Crimson (21-2, 5-1 Ivy) earned at least a portion of the Ivy League title for the first time since 2008.
But despite the accomplishment, the team did not appear at all fazed.
“Our coach made sure that we were not thinking about that,” freshman Alex Steinroeder said. “There was a little mention of it after we won Sunday’s match, but he said ‘The job’s not done. We have to take care of business next weekend before we can say anything about the league title.’”
HARVARD 4, BROWN 3
Despite a slow beginning to play, Harvard was able to quickly take back momentum against the Bears (16-7, 2-4) and earn its fourth consecutive victory on Sunday.
“Today’s match was tough,” co-captain Alistair Felton said. “We struggled playing away from home, and in a small indoor facility with loud fans, but the team coped well. In the end, we got the win. It was a long, long match, and it was very tough, so I’m so happy we won it”
For the first time in weeks, the Crimson did not gain an immediate advantage in the match as it lost the doubles point.
“It was a little surprising that we dropped the doubles point since we’ve been playing such good doubles recently,” Steinroeder said. “But I think losing it really got everyone fired up and made the singles players do their jobs. Even the guys that lost played well.”
HARVARD 5, YALE 2
Going into Friday’s match against the Bulldogs (13-10, 2-4), the Crimson was riding a 10-game winning streak against its rival. This matched proved to be no different, as Harvard blew past Yale, 5-2.
“That match was definitely much anticipated,” Felton said. “But once we got the doubles point it was all over very quickly. The team played very professionally. I thought we did really well.”
The Crimson began Friday’s match by taking the doubles point thanks to an 8-6 win courtesy of senior Jonathan Pearlman and sophomore Christo Schultz and an 8-1 victory from junior Andy Nguyen and freshman Denis Nguyen. Felton and sophomore Casey MacMaster suffered the only doubles loss of the day, 9-8 (8).
Harvard’s energy carried over into singles play, and the Crimson won four of six individual contests.
In the No. 1 slot, Pearlman handily took care of his Bulldog counterpart, 6-2, 6-3, as did Schultz, in the exact same fashion, in the No. 4 position. Andy Nguyen, who usually competes solely in the doubles portion of the match, proved his worth in singles play as he followed his teammates’ leads and won, 6-3, 6-1. Steinroeder was the next to come out victorious for the Crimson, as he finished off his day’s work, 6-3, 6-7, 1-0. Classmates Denis Nguyen and Shaun Chaudhuri could not quite pull off the same success, though, and were defeated, 1-6, 7-5, 1-0, and 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, respectively.
Felton attributed Harvard’s success in the two weekend matches to a team-wide “no fear” mentality.
“We are kind of going for the mindset that we aren’t trying to protect ourselves, instead we still have to prove ourselves and go and earn the win,” Felton said. “It’s the ‘no fear’ mindset that we tried to have throughout these matches. We were pretty successful at that.”
Steinroeder added to this, explaining that from now on, the thoughts of the team are largely focused on winning the entirety of the title.
“The seniors haven’t won an Ivy League title before,” Steinroeder said. “So all of us want to win the match next weekend to give them that first title. I know going into the year that was something they really wanted, and there has been such great senior leadership that that is something that we definitely want to do for them.”
—Staff writer Juliet Spies-Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.