The Harvard men’s tennis team kicked off its Ivy title defense this weekend and immediately faced tough tests against No. 19 Columbia and No. 46 Cornell.
The No. 34 Crimson (12-6, 1-1 Ivy) had an uneven road trip, getting blanked by the surging Lions (16-1, 3-0), 7-0, on Saturday, before turning things around against the Big Red (10-7, 0-3) Sunday afternoon.
Columbia, undefeated in conference play, represents perhaps the biggest obstacle to Harvard’s three-peat chances.
“Yesterday was a tough loss, but [the Lions] are very good on their home courts,” junior co-captain Alex Steinroeder said. “They are playing well and are tough to beat, but anything is possible in Ivies.”
HARVARD 5, CORNELL 2
Harvard skillfully handled both the brisk Ithaca early-spring weather and Cornell to hand the Big Red its third straight conference loss.
In doubles, the Crimson jumped out to a 1-0 lead, marking a turnaround after having to play from behind on Saturday. Sophomore Nicky Hu and freshman Brian Yeung closed out a 8-6 win, and the team’s top tandem of co-captain Casey MacMaster and junior Denis Nguyen followed suit with an 8-5 mark to hand Harvard the advantage.
“We haven’t won a lot of doubles points this year against the really good teams,” Harvard coach Dave Fish said. “Today we played some good tennis and got back on track.”
In singles, Steinroeder did the early damage, cruising to a 6-2, 6-2 win. Freshman Andrew Ball then fell at No. 6 to make the match score 2-1.
Yeung proceeded to crush a serve on match point on the fifth court to finish off a two-set win and bring the Crimson to the precipice of victory. Junior Shaun Chaudhuri would seal the deal, coming back from a set deficit to close out the win in three.
Freshman Sebastian Beltrame picked up a victory, but Nguyen lost in a third-set tiebreak to make up the final 5-2 score.
“Our job going forward is focusing on our matches and not worrying about how other teams are doing,” Steinroeder said. “We did a great job of doing that today, bouncing back with a great, hard-fought win.”
COLUMBIA 7, HARVARD 0
In its first foray into Ivy League play, the Crimson attempted to avenge a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the Lions in the final round of the ECAC Team Championships in February.
But things didn’t go as planned for Harvard in its first test at defending its Ancient Eight crown, as Columbia dropped the Crimson, 7-0, in a match that was much closer than the final score indicated.