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No. 12 Harvard men’s tennis (19-5, 7-0) completed its clean sweep of conference matches to capture the Ivy League title last weekend in Princeton, N.J. The Crimson took on No. 54 Princeton (16-3, 3-4), ultimately defeating the Tigers 6-1. This marks Harvard’s second undefeated Ivy title in a row.
“To go back to back undefeated seasons is obviously quite a challenge and quite an accomplishment,” head coach Andrew Rueb said.
The final match — the Crimson’s first face-off with the Tigers in the spring season — reflected the momentum the team had built up over the course of conference play. Doubles, which has been a strength throughout the season, proved an instrumental aspect of the match.
In the collegiate format, the first team to win two of three six-game doubles matches takes the doubles point. The quick format creates necessary momentum for players and leaves the team that earns the point in need of just three singles victories to complete the win.
The doubles pairing of sophomore Daniel Milavsky and senior captain No. 35 Harris Walker took the first win of the day on the top court against Princeton’s Thomas Bosancic and Ellis Short, 6-3. Trouble arose when simultaneously, the Tigers’ Alan Kam and Sebastian Sec defeated sophomore David Lins and junior Alan Yim, 6-3. The doubles point came down to the second-court match between junior Ronan Jachuck and senior Steven Sun and Princeton’s Filippos Astreinidis and Top Nidunjianzan. Jachuck and Sun, who went 18-4 in the 2022-23 season, fought for the break at 4-4 to win the match, 6-4.
“I think we want to keep pushing our doubles,” Rueb said. “When we're playing excellent doubles, it makes us very tough to beat. And we're almost there, we're putting the pieces together.”
After winning the doubles point, Harvard needed at least three singles wins to secure the Ancient Eight title. On the top court, Walker had a straight-set victory over Nidunjianzan, 6-3, 6-4. First-year Valdemar Pape fought back after dropping his first set 5-7 to win in the No. 6 position against Matthew Bosancic, 5-7, 6-3, 1-0. It was Sun who ultimately cliched the Ivy title with his 6-4, 6-3, win against Ellis Short on the fifth court. Meanwhile, No. 27 junior All-American Henry von der Schulenburg fought for a comeback against Bosancic, fighting back from a set down for the final win of the match, 0-6, 6-4, 7-5.
“Certainly, as a coach, you're just so proud of the work they put in,” Rueb shared. “They drew on all that hard work when the pressure moments came, and I thought they responded beautifully, and just clearly have a great competitive fight and spirit — I think that was really what defines this team and what has made them successful.”
With this impressive repeat of last year’s undefeated Ivy title — the first of its kind since the 2003 and 2004 seasons — it’s impossible not to wonder what this team is doing differently. According to Rueb, it’s a complex alchemy of many factors.
“We're very grateful as coaches to work with a team that has high aspirations, and we don't feel like we're dragging them along. They're pushing forward, and we're working with them,” Rueb explained. “And I think that that's really all you can ask for as a coach.”
Ivy play began on April 1, when the Crimson traveled to Dartmouth. Coming off of a close loss against the reigning NCAA champions University of Virginia the weekend prior, Harvard fought hard to kick off its conference streak. After closing out their match against the Big Green, 6-1, the Crimson hit the road again for face-offs with the rest of the Ancient Eight.
Harvard will compete next in the NCAA Division I National Championship. Last spring, the Crimson, ranked No. 14 at the time, fell to Stanford in the second round of the tournament. Given their impressive run in both singles and doubles this season, it would be unsurprising to see them take it further.
“I think if we can just improve ourselves a little bit more in doubles, that gives us a really potent one-two punch here with our singles,” Rueb said. “So that's certainly going to be a focus the next week or so.”
Official team selections and match locations will be announced by the NCAA in a livestream on Monday, May 1, with the first round of play set to begin on May 5.
— Staff writer Caroline G. Gage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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