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No. 12 Harvard men’s tennis (5-1) continued its hot start to the season with two decisive wins against UCLA (2-2) and Northwestern (1-5). The wins qualify the squad for the championship ITA Indoor National Tournament in New York City on February 16th. Building on its momentum, the Crimson squad continued its dominance this past Friday, posting a decisive 6-1 victory against No. 11 Michigan (3-2).
Returning from the long academic recess, the team has established itself as a powerhouse program, losing its first match upon return to the University of Memphis 2-4, but clinching decisive victories in its next five matches.
“We lost our first match against Memphis, but we learned a lot and made strides in a lot of areas and it’s shown in our results. It’s extremely gratifying to see the work you’ve put in translate into results early on in the season, but we know that we want to be peaking in April and May for the Ivy League and NCAA’s,” senior Ronan Jachuck said. “We have a very strong schedule and the best way to improve is by testing ourselves consistently against the best teams in the country.”
The Crimson started off its first match of the tournament against UCLA slowly, having to claw back after losing the first doubles match, falling down 1-0. However, the slump seemed to be relegated to that court, with Harvard players winning the first set on four different courts. Junior Danny Mivalsky clinched a decisive win, tying play to one match apiece with his 6-3, 6-4 win on court three. Senior Henry von der Schulenberg put the Crimson up on the scoreboard after sealing his match 7-5, 6-2 on court two. UCLA responded with a win on court four over Jachuck, leveling play once again at 2-2.
Playing at the No.1 position, freshman star Cooper Williams, the 15th ranked singles player in the nation, scored a narrow 7-6(2), 7-6(7) victory with two tiebreaker wins, poising Harvard for victory with its 3-2 lead. Sophomore Melchior Delloye sealed the team’s victory with a three set 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 thriller on court five.
Harvard opened its next match against Northwestern even more decisively than its play against UCLA, claiming the doubles point with wins from partners Jachuck and sophomore Masato Perera, and Mivalsky and Williams, who are the fifth ranked doubles team in the nation.
Von der Schulenberg carried the momentum into singles play, decisively winning a 6-2, 6-2 straight sets match on court two. Jachuck continued Harvard’s dominance with a 6-3, 6-1 win on court five to put the Crimson up 3-0. Mivalsky clinched the win with a 6-2, 6-2 victory on court three. Von der Schulenberg and Mivalsky ended the weekend undefeated. Harvard also extended its win streak to four, and clinched its first appearance in the ITA Indoor Nationals since 2005.
“The team has been working hard all year. Starting in September, the goal is to develop and be ready for this spring season,” Jachuck said. “I’m really proud of everyone for buying into the team and the culture that we’ve set over the last few seasons. Within the first few weeks of the season itself I’ve seen a lot of improvement in our squad.”
University of Michigan
On Friday, the Crimson secured another dominant victory against No. 11/No.14 Michigan. Harvard picked up the doubles point with strong showings from the duos of Williams and Mivalsky, and von der Schulenberg and junior David Lins. Jachuck and Mivalsky kicked off the singles action 6-3, 6-3 and 6-4, 6-4, respectively. Delloye clinched the win on the fifth court with a 6-1, 7-6(5) straight-sets victory. Williams upset the ninth ranked singles player, Gavin Young, in an impressive 7-5, 6-4 nail-biter, continuing his dominance as the Crimson’s ace. Von der Schulenberg capped off the victory in comeback fashion with a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over no. 61 ranked singles player Jacob Bickersteth.
“Going into these matches, our mindset is to go out there and compete hard. We know that our best tennis is as good as anyone’s, so if we can be tough as nails at every position then we can be a problem for any team in the country,” Jachuck said. “We’ve proven over the last few years that Harvard Men’s Tennis is one of the best programs in the country and we go into matches against top 15, top 10 teams with the intention to win.”
Looking ahead, Harvard’s schedule includes ranked matches against No. 8 Duke and a week-long trip to California during spring break before a return to in-conference Ivy League play. But first, the Crimson head to Kentucky to face off against No. 11 University of Kentucky and University of Louisville this weekend.
“The Kentucky road trip is coming up soon. Our practice sessions will be very specific and targeted given that we will be leaving in the middle of the week,” Jachuck added. “The guys have played a lot of matches so it’s more about making sure everyone is healthy, managing their mind and bodies, and continuing to fine tune their games.”
The Crimson look to continue their dominance on the trip, with matches starting on Friday February 9 at 5:00 pm ET.
—Staff writer Praveen Kumar can be reached at email@example.com
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