"We're gonna win it all."
That's the way senior co-captain Todd Lundy, known not only for his tennis ability but also for his dry wit, characterized the Crimson's chances of taking the Eastern League title this year.
The season kicks off against Navy today (the Ivies, Army and Navy comprise the league), and although Harvard is not expected to "win it all," don't be surprised if coach Dave Fish's boys make a run for the title.
Fish claims he has the best Harvard team in years, which merits a double-take when one recalls the 7-2, 8-1 (co-champ) and 7-2 records the racquetmen have turned in the last three campaigns.
The problem boils down to this: while Harvard has improved, so has everyone else. Perennial powerhouse Princeton still looms as the giant, universally disliked Yale coach Steve Griggs has built the Elis into an awesome squad in just two years, and Columbia seems to get tougher all the time.
"I think we may take our lumps," Fish said with a grin this week. "We learned a lot on the southern trip (2-3 finish), and the guys have shown a willingness to work very hard on the areas that need improvement, but unless we get better we're gonna get smoked."
The area where the Crimson could get smoked worst is doubles. Doubles matches--played after the singles--have traditionally been a Harvard strong point. If a Harvard tennis team went into the doubles with the score three-apiece, the match was theirs. This year may be different.
The doubles pairings of Andy Chaikovsky-Lundy, Kevin Shaw-Scott Walker, and Greg Kirsch-Don Pompan (or Bob Horn with Pompan injured) have not jelled yet this year.
"The way the doubles develop will more than likely determine the outcome of the season," junior veteran Chaikovsky said yesterday.
The singles, on the other hand, look as strong as any squad in the recent memory. Cat-like captain Danny Waldman and then freshman Dan Gerken are gone from last year, but the lineup remains solid.
Freshmen Don Pompan and Bob Horn (the first sub), and sophomore Greg Kirsch join veterans Lundy, Walker, Chaikovsky and Shaw on the varsity (see profiles, below). Lundy could have trouble at one where he will face some of the better players in the nation, but the Crimson should dominate the lower singles matches.
"The strength of our lineup is down lower," Fish said. "We have about six guys all of whom are capable of playing as high as three."
But other squads are talent-rich, too, and Princeton leads the list. The Tigers (3-3, 1-0 league) are strong and deep, and they own victories over California-Irvine (6-3), San Diego State (9-2), and Penn (7 1/2-11/2).
Freshman Jay Lapidus, one of the top dozen players in the country, has racked up a 4-1 record this season, losing only at UCLA. Co-captains Tom Brightfield and Jon Gross also return from last year's 8-0 league champ squad.
But anything can happen in Ivy tennis--Princeton came to Palmer Dixon cocky and brash two years ago, and the Crimson scored a 5-4 upset to tie for the championship.