It isn't very often that the Harvard men's tennis team gets to sleep in the same hotel, play on the same courts, or even breathe the same air as the elites of college tennis. In fact, it's never happened before.
But this weekend in Athens, Ga., is a dream come true for the netmen--the chance to compete in the inter-collegiate national championship.
Only 16 teams are selected to participate in this prestigious tournament that represents the pinnacle of collegiate tennis. And for the first time in the history of Crimson tennis, Harvard's one of them.
The Crimson earned its slot by capturing sole possession of its first Ivy League Championship since 1966--no mean feat since it included an undefeated league record and the toppling of a formidable Princeton dynasty.
But how does the Crimson stack up against the national powerhouses? Well, let's just say the Crimson has the benefit of surprise on its side. Although the Crimson league record is unblemished, its one chance to prove its ability to compete with the best this year ended in disappointment.
A spring-season tour of the West Coast resulted in few surprises, no upsets and a greater respect for dynasties. The squad suffered severe losses at the hands of perennial powerhouses Arizona State and Arizona University. Losses were also chalked up at Long Beach State and USC. The only victory was scored against the University of San Fransisco.
The Crimson hopes to dispel the memories of that pre-season trip by asserting its presence on the national scene beginning Saturday. But its not going to be easy. By the luck of the draw, the Crimson drew the tournament-favorite Pepperdine to play in the opening round--which is similar to being sent to the Quad.
But every cloud has its silver lining. Pepperdine is handicapped by the loss of its number-one player due to an injury. And, if the Crimson scores and upset, they stand in good shape for the big win.
Only one Ivy League team in the last several years has managed to capture a win in the opening round. That was Princeton two years ago.
A team's first shot at the big time is never easy. Aside from the nervous jitters, and the time spent ogling reigning superstars, there's the elation of just having broken through to the higher level. But the Crimson will have to overcome this feeling of contentment. The team has proven man-for-man its ability to compete with the very best. That's what it's going to take this weekend--each player at his very best. They've got what it takes--now they just have to prove it.