A change in time may herald a change in season; this Sunday, it was a case of the clocks springing forward and the Crimson bouncing back.
Looking to respond to consecutive losses against No. 19 Michigan and Northwestern, No. 66 Harvard (5-3) welcomed Marquette (8-4) to the Murr Center for the first time in the program’s history.
In a final score that belied the competitiveness of the encounter, the Crimson emerged 6-1 winners—after four singles matches went to a third set.
“I think we were lucky to get away with a win today,” Harvard coach David Fish ’72 said. “I thought that it could have just started, and it would have been an avalanche against us.”
If the Crimson wanted to stretch its winning streak at home duels to nine, it would have to clip the wings of the Golden Eagles. Through an insatiable work-ethic and refusal to lose, Marquette harried Harvard across the brackets, scrapping for every point.
With the score poised at 3-1, freshman Davis Manghan delivered the crucial fourth point for the Crimson in dramatic circumstances; after slumping to a bagel in the opening set, Harvard’s No. 5—returning from illness—responded emphatically to defeat Marquette’s Mark Rutherford (0-6, 6-3, 7-5).
“To see Davis come back after losing the first set 6-0—it was very professional,” said Fish. “It’s very easy just to pack it in and say ‘It’s not my day,’ but he didn’t...it was a big win for him”
In spite of a determined showing by the Golden Eagles, it was the Crimson who claimed the doubles point in style.
At No. 3, the sophomore-freshman partnership of Aba Omodele-Lucien and Manghan set the tone with an 8-5 win over the Marquette’s Niko Boulieris and Jonathan Schwerin. The point was sealed by junior Michael Hayes and freshman Alistair Felton at No. 2; the duo combined to save numerous break points, before Hayes’ delicate volley consigned Dusan Medan and Rutherford to an 8-6 defeat. Moments later at No. 1, senior captain and No. 65 in the nation Chris Clayton and sophomore Alexei Chijoff-Evans applied gloss to the doubles point, overcoming Trent Hagan and Stephen Shao in an 8-4 win.
But if Harvard was under any illusions regarding the strength of its opponents upon winning the doubles, it was sorely mistaken in the singles.
With three wins needed in the singles to secure the win, three members of the Crimson’s line-up lost their first set. Far from disheartened from the loss of the doubles point, the Golden Eagles replied enthusiastically to the challenge by punishing a lackluster Harvard start.
“[Marquette] came out firing—all of them had solid games, were aggressive and served well,” said Clayton. “It was good to see that we were able hang in the points and not give up in any of the matches.”
After an anxious opening, the Crimson regained its composure through wins at both ends of the brackets. No. 6 Omodele-Lucien defeated his Golden Eagles counterpart Schwerin (6-2, 6-3), before No. 5 Felton fell to Boulieris in a 3-6, 6-1, 4-6 loss. Harvard struck back through a captain’s response; at No. 1, Clayton grinded out a 7-5, 7-6 (7-0) win over Hagan to leave the Crimson one point away from victory.
With three singles matchups all in third sets remaining, a Harvard win was far from certain.
With the outcome of the contest in the balance, No. 5 Manghan needed to break Rutherford at 6-5 to avoid a third set tiebreaker and clinch the match. Through an array of groundstrokes and volleys, the freshman forced a match point before Rutherford fired long to hand Manghan and the Crimson the win.
“Every time you play a match you have to be ready for it to be ugly, and today was one of those days,” said Clayton. “At a certain point in the match, it could have gone either way.”
The tie secured, Harvard wrapped up moments later with a pair of gritty victories. After a number of missed match points in the second set, No. 4 Hayes finally saw off the tenacious Shao in three sets (6-3, 6-7, 6-3), while at No. 2, Chijoff-Evans marked a complete turnaround over Medan in a fiercely contested 1-6, 7-6, 6-4 win.
Despite the margin of victory for the Crimson, it was tested to the limit by a strong Marquette lineup that on another day could have celebrated its first fixture against Harvard with a win.
“I think that as players and coaches we have to learn that lesson over and over again—that the doubles is nothing like the singles,” said Fish. “If it takes a real scare like this to remind us again, then I’m grateful that we got a scare and a win.”
—Staff writer Allen J. Padua can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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