The No. 34 Harvard men’s tennis team (17-6, 3-1 Ivy League) will finish its regular season with matches against Yale on Friday and Brown on Sunday. The Crimson will be playing away in New Haven but will be hosting the Bears at the Murr Center for its Senior Day on Sunday.
The four seniors who will be honored, co-captain Denis Nguyen, co-captain Alex Steinroder, Shaun Chaudhuri and Henry Steer have been a large part of Harvard’s 77-22 record over their four years. With three trips to the NCAA tournament under their belts, the seniors also hope to steer the Crimson to the NCAAs one last time.
“It’s a big weekend for our seniors,” Steinroder said. “It’s our last home match, it’ll be fun but also sad that we’re leaving. We’ve had four good years together so [the matches this weekend] should be exciting for us.”
After a close 4-3 win against Princeton last weekend, Harvard is battling for second place in the Ivy League with Dartmouth (11-10, 2-2) and Princeton (18-6, 3-2). After losing the doubles point against the Tigers, the Crimson fought back to win all four points of singles play against the Tigers to move into sole possession of second place.
“We’re hoping to keep improving our doubles play because we dropped a couple of doubles points [last weekend]”, Harvard coach Dave Fish '72 said. “If we end up being productive [in the doubles] we won’t have to win four singles matches.”
Fish stressed that the margins were thin and that the team’s chances could hinge on small shifts in its strategy and approach.
“Essentially what the team is doing is to try and take the lessons they learned competitively and put them into action,” he said. “I guess this sounds boring but it’s really about getting just a few more points.”
Harvard’s previous matches against the Bulldogs and Brown have been victories. The Crimson defeated Yale 4-0 earlier in the season, with clean sweeps of both singles and doubles matches. The Bears lost to Harvard last year with a 4-2 defeat.
“We’ve beaten Yale earlier this year and we beat Brown last year pretty easily,” Steinroder said. “But they’re both good teams and we know they’re both going to fight really hard because all teams in the Ivy League are good and they’re all tough. If [Brown and Yale] commit and focus on playing well, it will definitely be two very close matches.”
The Bears and Bulldogs were both defeated by Cornell, 7-0 and 5-2, respectively, last week. The Big Red fell to Harvard earlier in the season, 4-3, putting the Crimson in a comfortable position heading into the weekend. Harvard boasts a 11-2 record at home this season, its only two losses coming from No. 23 Vanderbilt and No. 28 Columbia.
Harvard’s No. 1 player, Nguyen, will face Yale’s No. 1 Tyler Lu. Harvard’s co-captain is ranked 34th in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association and has an overall record of 16-11 along with a 10-7 record in dual matches. The Crimson’s first All-American since 2005 last year, Nguyen will hope to remake an appearance in the men’s singles draw.
“Nguyen, our number one, played a fine match last weekend,” Fish said. “He’s going to play a sophomore who’s been known to give trouble before, a very fast and talented player at Yale, Tyler Lu.”
Nguyen will pair up with sophomore Brian Yeung in doubles. The duo has notched 19 wins this year and are ranked No. 17 in the country. Yeung also performs solidly as a singles player, owning a 17-6 record overall. The sophomore has perfect marks at the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 positions and has won eight of his last 10 matches.
“For us, it means if we can maintain our present ranking nationally, then we could earn a spot in the NCAA tournament,” Fish said. “In addition to trying to wind the Ivy League, you’re trying to get in the NCAA tournament. It’s a real mark of accomplishment for any team.”
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