Believe it or not, the Harvard men's tennis team is really not completely excited about participating in the NCAA championship tournament in Indian Wells, Cal.
I mean, can you imagine tougher conditions to take your final exams?
"It's going to be tough taking exams on the road," Captain Mark Leschly said.
Come on Lesch. Give us a break.
"But I'am kind of psyched just to be there," Leschly finally admitted.
And who wouldn't be, as the team members of the 13th-ranked Crimson will be playing in their first NCAA tournament match when they open today with a first-round match against San Diego at 12 p.m. PDT. I mean, taking exams in Palm Springs can be tough.
But the Crimson--which slipped into the tourney as the first Eastern team ever to receive an at-large bid--will be all-serious, no jokes, against the Toreros today.
Harvard first singles Mike Shyjan has nursed a sore back back to health, as has senior Roger Berry. The pair will be accompanied in California by Leschly, junior Jon Cardi, and sophomores Mike Zimmerman, Derek Brown, Albert Chang and John Tolmie.
Harvard (21-5) is likely to field Shyjan, Zimmerman and Leschly at the top three singles spots, followed by Brown, Chang and Cardi. All six will have to be tough competing against San Diego's strongest area.
"I don't know much about [San Diego]," Harvard Coach Dave Fish said. "All I know is that they have real strong singles depth."
Leading off for the 17th-ranked Toreros (21-5) will be the sixth-ranked singles player in the nation, Jose Luis Noriega, who is 27-4 in singles action this season and claimed the national championship in the fall with a win in the DuPont Intercollegiate National Clay Court Championship.
But it does not get much easier after Noriega, with Captain Dan Mattera at number-two singles sporting a 28-6 record this season. Rounding out the lineup for San Diego Coach Ed Collins--who claimed Coach of the Year in the highly-competitive California Region VIII--is number-three J.R. Edwards (24-8), number-four Chris Toomey (23-9), number-five Kevin Bradley (27-6) and number-six Thomas Simonsen (14-10).
Expected matchups at doubles are Shyjan/Zimmerman, ranked 10th in the nation, against Noriega/Edwards at first doubles; Cardi/Chang versus Mattera/Bradley at second doubles; and Leschly/Berry against Toomey and Bob Mehran at third doubles.
"The guys have been through this before with the indoor championships in February, but it is the first NCAA tournament for these guys," Fish said. "If my guys are well-rested, I want to put them up against anyone."
Anyone would include second-ranked UCLA, which will play the winner of today's match in the second round tomorrow at 4 p.m. PDT. The Toreros lost to the Bruins, 5-4, earlier in the season.
And of course, neither San Diego nor UCLA has to contend with final exams, like the Crimson does.
"We'll have to wait and see how they'll do with exams," Fish said. "That'll determine a lot."
Ah, the drawbacks of representing your school at a national championship tournament--taking finals in California.
THE NOTEBOOK: If Harvard beats both San Diego and UCLA, the Crimson would face the winner of tomorrow's California-LSU match in the quarterfinals Sunday. The tournament concludes with the semifinals Monday and the championship match Tuesday.
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