After starting on the road, the Harvard men’s tennis team came home to the Murr Center Tennis Courts to take on No. 59 Princeton and Penn in Ivy League play.
Despite entering the weekend behind both teams in the Ancient Eight, the No. 31 Crimson (14-6, 3-1 Ivy) swept both the Quakers (6-11, 2-2) and Tigers (12-10, 2-3) by a score of 4-0.
The win moved Harvard into second in the Ivy League and puts pressure on first place Columbia as the Crimson looks to defend its Ivy League title.
HARVARD 4, PENN 0
A day after beating Princeton, Harvard continued its success by defeating Penn, handing the Quakers their seconds straight Ivy loss.
The Crimson claimed the doubles point for the third consecutive time, led by the tandem of sophomore Nicky Hu and freshman Brian Yueng, who claimed their third straight victory and eighth of the season by an 8-6 margin.
Penn put pressure on Harvard, as junior Denis Nguyen and senior Casey MacMaster, the 15th ranked duo in the nation, fell to Penn’s Nikola Kocovic and Matt Nardella in an 8-7 decision.
Harvard secured the 1-0 lead as freshman Sebastian Beltrame and Christo Schultz followed their teammates with an 8-4 triumph on court three.
“Getting the doubles point is big for us,” junior co-captain Alex Steinroeder said. “When we get [the point] it really helps us out and builds some momentum.”
The Crimson carried the momentum of its doubles triumph into singles, with all six players taking the first set in their respective matches to make sure Harvard got out to a substantial advantage.
Yueng continued his hot streak by defeating Nardella on a 6-4, 6-2 decision to put the Crimson up, 2-0. It was Yueng’s third straight singles victory and 18th of the season.
Harvard would go up 3-0 on the Quakers as Shaun Chauduri defeated junior Jeremy Court, 6-2, 6-3, at the No. 3 position, before Nguyen, who entered the weekend ranked as the No. 39 singles player in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, closed the match with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Kocovic to avenge the doubles loss.
“It was really the first two matches of the season where everyone really played well from one to six,” Steinroeder said. “It was a big confidence [boost] for us, really dominating the two teams.”
HARVARD 4 PRINCETON 0
Harvard started its weekend slate by returning to Cambridge to play its first home Ivy League matches against Princeton.
Continuing on its early season success, the Crimson defeated the Tigers for the fourth straight time to break Princeton’s two game winning streak, with freshman Andrew Ball delivering a clutch, 6-4, 7-6 win to clinch the triumph for Harvard.
The day started with the Crimson taking advantage early in the doubles matches. The second doubles tandem of Hu and Yueng got the ball rolling with an 8-5 victory, to give Harvard an early edge in the doubles race.
The lead was doubled when the third string team pair, composed of Schultz and Beltrame, followed suit by winning their match, 8-5, to claim the doubles point and stake a 1-0 lead, a point which Harvard coach Dave Fish claims to be a huge game changer for the Crimson.
“Having the doubles point in your pocket means [the opponent] has to win 4 out of 6 matches in singles,” Fish said. “The doubles point is always critical, and if we get the doubles point we turn into a very hard team to beat.”
The singles play saw the Crimson continue its hot start as Yueng continued a successful day by cruising to a 6-2, 6-0 victory, which saw him break all of Princeton freshman Josh Yablon’s serves in the second set and put the Crimson ahead, 2-0.
Steinroder continued the success by putting Harvard on the brink of a second straight victory, winning his singles match by a 6-2, 6-3 margin over freshman Alex Day on court three.
Harvard looked to close out the match on court six as Hu took the first set, 6-2, but Princeton senior Dan Davies would battle back to win the second set, 6-4, setting up freshman Andrew Ball to attempt to close out the match.
Ball took the first set, 6-4, over his opponent, senior Augie Bloom, before going up, 3-0, in the second set with the help of a break. Bloom stormed back to level the set at 4-4 with two breaks of his own.
Ball would hold strong and close out the match, 6-4, with two straight points to claim victory for the Crimson. According to Steinroeder, the victory mirrored the advice which Coach Fish gave to his players going into the weekend.
“Coach has been telling us to go after it a little more,” Steinroeder said. “We’ve been playing down to our opponents level a lot of the times, but our guys were aggressive and committed to their games, and when we have all three doubles team and six singles players doing that, we’re a really tough team.”