Monday, February 26, 2007

ITA Region I Championships, Oct.19-23,2006

ITA Region I Championships Philadelphia, PA October 19-23, 2006

The ever-increasing depth of the Eastern region was on display this weekend at the ITA Region I championships at UPenn. While years ago, the Ivies tended to dominate this tournament, with periodic flashes of brilliance from Virginia Tech and Penn State, it is the case no longer. Parity has arrived in the East for good, just as it has nationally. More of the region’s 64 Division I colleges than ever have players capable of competing with the region’s best. The Ivies, while not dominated by one particular team, have kept pace with this growth. Watch for the spring matches to be a free-for-all.

Pecking order did not bother anyone this time. #1 Brandon Wai of Yale went out in the round of 16’s to Penn State’s Lynch, while #4 seed Kumar of Harvard went out to Columbia’s puzzling lefty, Jared Drucker. Penn #1, #3 seed Pinsky, and Columbia’s Drucker (#5 last year but vastly improved!) advanced to tomorrow’s semi’s, the only Ivy players left. In the doubles, we placed our top two teams in the quarters, but were stopped by two strong teams. Sasha Ermakov, testing an injured ankle out in the doubles, got back together with Kumar, but found the Penn State #1 team serving big and swinging freely. They came back to within one break, but Penn State’s big 6’4” lefty ended the suspense with four unreturnable serves. Co-Captains Valkin and Denenberg survived a tiebreak against a hot Dartmouth team on Sunday to make it to the quarters against the #2 seeds from Brown. Brown was quick to capitalize on several double faults for a quick break, returned the favor a game later, and broke again to capture a lead which they never relinquished. We had a few looks at break points, but Brown firmed up at the right time, taking the match by a wide margin.

Sophomore Chris Clayton made it to the 16’s and took Penn’s Pinsky to three sets. He lost the first set quickly, as Pinsky roughed him up with powerful serving and attacking returns. Clayton hung on in the second set, staying ahead on serve throughout the set to reach a tiebreak. Pinsky led at 4-3, but Clayton hung tough to finally take the set on his second set point. Early on, he looked like he might run the table by gaining an early break, but a lack of aggression allowed Pinsky to regain his balance. Once back to even at 2-2, Pinsky regained his rhythm and took the third going away.

Co-Captain Scott Denenberg survived a near-upset in the second round, with a fine come-from-behind effort against Georgetown’s #1 to win 6-4 in the third. The next day, against #1 seed Wai of Yale, he played some brilliant tennis but finally fell. He took out Wai’s legs, who lost to another Penn State player in the second singles match of the day. Junior Dan Nguyen met another hot player from Penn State in the first round, who went on to reach the quarters before going out to #2 seed Puranen (Sweden), Virginia Tech’s top player. While Dan has sometimes started slowly in the fall, watch out for him come springtime!

Co-Captain Gideon Valkin, made it through two qualifying rounds to make it to the main draw, where he played an almost flawless first set against Brown’s Chris Lee, formerly #1 in New England. He took the first set 6-3. But the pace took its toll on Valkin, which was all Lee needed to get a strong hold on the second. In the third, Lee came up big on everything he touched.

Sophomore Michael Kalfayan deserves special note. Losing his debut match only last February 6-0, 6-0 at #6 v. Northwestern, he has been on a steadily-improving track ever since. Mike played some of his best tennis ever to make it through UMBC’s (U. of Md, Baltimore County) #1 player in the first round. He battled Brown’s Zack Pasenen, another former New England #1 and lost 7-6, 7-5. Spectators couldn’t believe the quality of the tennis and found it unfortunate that they had to meet each other in the pre-qualifying round. It was clear they both deserved to be in the main draw.

Two weeks from now, we’ll cap off the fall at the Big Green Invitational at Dartmouth.

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