Monday, February 26, 2007

Harvard drops opener at Michigan State 4-3

There’s no fooling around when you get to the Big Ten. We looked a little like Harvard Hockey at the Bean Pot, searching for some rust-remover after exams. We came out on the short end of a 3-4 loss to Michigan State.

In the opening doubles, our Old Faithful team, Seniors Denenberg and Valkin, got off to a slow start. They never quite got all engines firing, but gained back one of the two breaks before losing 8-6. Clayton and Nguyen at #3 hadn’t played much together recently, so are still a work in progress. Both are capable of amazing shot-making. They were broken three times in an 8-game collegiate set. Fortunately, they broke four or five times to win 8-4. As soon as they get some of the basics (like holding serve), they will be pretty good!

The rubber match was at #1. Kumar and freshman Mike Hayes took on a top 30 nationally team of Rinks and Monich. Despite going down a break early, Kumar and Hayes played some amazing tennis, finally breaking back to tie the match at 6-6. Service holds to the Tiebreak…down early in the TB, but tied it up at 4-4…a Hayes second serve seeming ace was called out for a double fault to give MSU the mini-break. MSU serves out the match. Whoever said that tennis is a game of inches wasn’t kidding!

The courts at MSU are laid out with four courts on each side of the stands in the center. We started out tentatively on the side that featured the even number matches. MSU played with a little more confidence, already six matches into their season. Denenberg and Kumar could not get on track, and both fell in straight sets at #4 and #2 respectively, while Kalfayan at #6 made short work of his less experienced opponent. 3-1 MSU.

On the “odd” side of the stands. Valkin went down a set at #3, but stormed back to even the match by taking the second set 6-1. Dan Nguyen at #5 grabbed a close first set, and went on to win his second set. At #1 Clayton played Nick Rinks, ranked #51 nationally. Rinks is a superb athlete who towers over Clayton, but Clayton’s grit and speed kept enormous pressure on Rinks, which resulted in a first set for Clayton. With the match at 3-2 MSU, we still had a chance on the two remaining matches. Valkin went down an early break in his third set, but Clayton kept hopes alive by frustrating Rinks repeatedly. He took the second set and match to even the match score at 3-3. Valkin fell a little short of the finish line, however, to give MSU its fourth point.

The long awaited first contact of the season is over. It wasn’t the result we hoped for, but the season is young!

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