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The Harvard men’s tennis team solidified its second-place standing in the Ivy League this weekend, picking up two conference victories against foes Yale and Brown.
While Columbia’s wins over Princeton and Penn clinched the Lions’ second straight Ivy crown, the No. 34 Crimson (19-6, 5-1 Ivy) made strides towards earning a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance with the wins over the Bulldogs and Bears. Harvard lost to Columbia, 5-2, back on Apr. 5.
This weekend, the Crimson traveled to New Haven, Conn., defeating archrival Yale on Friday, 5-2, before returning to Cambridge and taking down Brown on Senior Day by the same score.
“It was a great senior day,” co-captain Alex Steinroeder said. “Our class has been through a lot together. We’ve had four great season’s together, and we’re hoping we can make this one last as long as possible.”
HARVARD 5, BROWN 2
On Sunday, the Crimson easily handled the Bears (15-7, 1-5), who sit tied with the Bulldogs for sixth in the Ancient Eight. In Harvard’s final home match of the season, it was finally warm enough to play outdoors at the Beren Tennis Center, and the squad celebrated seniors Steinroeder, co-captain Denis Nguyen, Shaun Chaudhuri, and Henry Steer.
In doubles, the team mixed up the lineup, going with some all-new doubles pairings. Nevertheless, the Crimson was still able to earn the doubles point. Junior Nicky Hu and sophomore Sebastian Beltrame claimed first doubles, 7-5, while Nguyen moved down to the second court and teamed with freshman Grant Solomon, winning 6-3.
Harvard coach Dave Fish ’72 explained the reasoning behind the team’s switching the doubles pairings.
“Sometimes, you just get stale,” Fish said. “You have to shake it up if they’re not producing. If guys are playing with each other and something doesn’t go well, the other guy can end up feeling guilty. It turned out well.”
In singles, the two co-captains carried the Crimson to victory in a match in which there was never in doubt. No. 39 Nguyen came back from a first-set deficit to win in three sets after the match was decided, and Steinroeder clinched the match for Harvard with a 6-3, 7-5 victory.
In the other contests, Hu won, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 2, while freshman Kenny Tao won his sixth straight dual match, 6-2, 6-1, on the sixth court.
Winning the doubles point was unfamiliar territory for the Crimson in recent times, as Harvard has not claimed the opening advantage since its first Ivy match against Cornell.
“The team has gotten used to being under pressure, coming into singles being down a point,” Fish said. “Today, we almost didn’t know what to do with that point, and some guys didn’t come out strong. Maybe we’re better with our backs against the wall.”
HARVARD 5, YALE 2
On Friday, the Crimson sent Yale (11-11, 1-5) to a 5-2 defeat on its home courts, coming back to deliver a quick victory even after falling behind in doubles.
Nguyen and Yeung, playing in their traditional top spot, were upset, 6-2, on court 1, and Solomon and fellow freshman Jean Thirouin lost by the same score at third doubles.
Despite coming in at a disadvantage, Harvard was able to eventually come away with five singles victories. Nguyen’s loss on the top court was the Crimson’s only blemish on the scoresheet.
Hu dominated the Bulldogs’ Martin Svenning, 6-2, 6-0, and Beltrame also earned a straight-set win. Tao came back from a first-set loss to win, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, and Steinroeder closed out the match with a 6-0, 4-6, 6-2 finish.
Harvard took care of business on a weekend in which its Ivy hopes died out, but saw its NCAA chances remain strong. The Crimson has one remaining conference match against Dartmouth next weekend.
“We moved closer to our goal of finishing second,” Fish said. “If we finish second in Ivies, it’s pretty definite that we’ll get into NCAAs. If we lose to Dartmouth, who knows? We have just as much on the line as Dartmouth does, and it’ll make for a terrific end-of-the-season matchup.”
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