One test down, many more to come. The Harvard men’s tennis team passed an important benchmark with flying colors this weekend in its buildup to its spring season, taking home the crown at the ECAC Division I Indoor Championship in Cambridge.
In its first real competition against its Ivy League foes this season, the Crimson showed its rivals that it will be a force to be reckoned with as it seeks to retake the Ancient Eight throne. Harvard captured back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013, and finished second last year.
The tournament field contained seven of eight Ivy League teams—notably missing was defending Ivy champion Columbia, which was competing in the ITA National Men’s Team Indoor Championship—as well as St. John’s, George Washington, and Monmouth.
This weekend, the Crimson lived up to its No. 1 seeding, dispatching Ancient Eight foes Yale and Princeton in the earlier rounds before easily handling second-seeded Dartmouth in Monday’s final.
“We knew that this would be a good task for us, considering that seven of eight Ivies were competing,” senior Shaun Chaudhuri said. “And we’re happy with the way we competed and learned from each match.”
HARVARD 4, DARTMOUTH 0
Monday’s final pitted the Ivy League’s second and third-place finishers from a year ago against each other. Furthermore, the Big Green, which took down St. John’s and Brown en route to the championship round, sought to avenge its 5-2 exhibition loss to Harvard in January.
The Crimson started off poorly in doubles, getting broken to open the matches on courts one and three. Co-captain Alex Steinroeder and freshman Grant Solomon eventually came out ahead in a back-and-forth match at No. 3, 6-3.
But when junior Nicky Hu and sophomore Sebastian Beltrame fell, 6-3, on the second court and with Dartmouth serving for the match at the top spot, the Big Green was poised to take the doubles point. But after coming within a single point, a double fault eventually led to a break for co-captain Denis Nguyen and sophomore Brian Yeung. The duo, ranked 15th nationally, eventually delivered the doubles point for Harvard in a tiebreak.
From there, the Crimson didn’t look back. Freshman Kenny Tao prevailed, 6-1, 6-4, and Steinroeder followed suit in straight sets a few minutes later to give Harvard the 3-0 lead.
And at No. 1, Nguyen cruised past Dartmouth’s Dovydas Sakinis, 6-2, 6-4, to make Harvard ECAC champions.
“Yesterday, we faced a tough Princeton team, and it was a close match,” Steinroeder said. “Today against Dartmouth, everyone came out firing, and we played much better overall.”
HARVARD 4, PRINCETON 2
On Sunday, the Crimson clinched a spot in the championship round with a 4-2 semifinal victory over the Tigers. Princeton was slow to start against Harvard and ultimately failed to recover.
Beltrame and Hu picked up a 6-4 win on the second court, and the doubles point fell to the tight contests at the other two spots. Solomon and Steinroeder went down on the third court, 6-4, but Nguyen and Yeung once again worked it to a tiebreak in the top slot.
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