Sunday, April 15, 2007

Men drop 4-3 decision to Penn on the road…

Men drop 4-3 decision to Penn on the road…

Coming into the match with a 3-0 record over three of the other top teams, Penn was on a mission.  A year ago, an inconsistent Harvard team had upset them, which put Brown in a position to earn a share of the Ivy title, and a rematch with the Quakers.  The Bruins took the playoff match, which resulted in Brown going to the NCAAs instead of Penn.  It was a bitter ending to Penn's hope for an undefeated Ivy title.  Such memories don't die easily.  Something I did not know, but was told on Friday, was that Penn had not beaten a Harvard team since 1974.  I guess there wasn't much chance of sneaking up on them…

But we were ready to go, too.  Penn had won something like 12 of 15 doubles points so far this season, so we knew going into the match that it would require a Herculean effort from our squad to capture the doubles point 1-0.  We in fact did win at #1 and #3, but only after coming from being down early breaks in both.  #3 Nguyen and Hayes played superb tennis to upset Fox and O'Gara 8-5, while Kumar and Ermakov defeated Penn's Pinsky and Riley, transfers from Vanderbilt and Virginia respectively who have really added punch to the top of the Quaker's line-up.  The Penn tandem of Bekker and Boym at #2 was brilliant.  They put Denenberg and Valkin under constant pressure. Pinpoint returns yielded a couple of early breaks and an eventual 8-5 decision for Penn, but only after the doubles point was secured.
1-0 Harvard.

Friday the 13th - bad omen for the Crimson.  Despite fiercely contested battles at #5 and #6 with Valkin and Ermakov, which eventually yielded Harvard two more points, Penn's #1-#4 singles played like Notre Dame's fabled Four Horsemen.  They bent at the line of scrimmage, but did not yield a single set to us. We had three points, but where to look for a fourth?

Denenberg at #4 led 4-2, but lost narrowly 7-6.  Penn's Lok grew in confidence and he took his serving to another level in the second set, capturing it 6-1.  Kumar, too, experiencing a serving slump, fell to Penn's talented sophomore Jonathan Boym, who had an answer for most of Ashwin's magic.  Ashwin had Boym down break points at 15-40 early in the set, but Boym survived the challenge and seemed also to become more confident.  He broke Ashwin in the next game to capture a lead that would give him the set two games later.  The second set featured more of Ashwin's magic, but it was not enough to deny the hungry sophomore.  Nguyen led 5-3 in his first set, and dropped the first set 7-6 to Bekker, Penn's only senior, a fixture at #1 and #2 for his first three years before Pinsky and Boym came on board.   At #1, Pinsky out-muscled Clayton from the first point on, and took the first set with alacrity. Clayton briefly held a break in the second, but saw his advantage erased.  Pinsky broke him the next game.  Ever dangerous, though, Clayton had yet another chance, holding break points on Pinsky's serve at 6-5, but Pinsky again firmed up to end Clayton's bid. With three of four points, all eyes turned to #3. It was all Bekker in the second set against Nguyen, and within minutes, Penn had secured its fourth point to survive its second close scare of the Ivy season 4-3.  Last week, after capturing the doubles point, Penn's  # 1, #2 and #3 lost to Yale's talented trio, and still won the back three).  Such is the depth on the Ivy teams these days!

Kudos to Penn coach Mark Riley, for doing such a great job preparing his charges…Penn will be a formidable team for the foreseeable future.

David Fish
Head Coach of Men's Tennis
Harvard University Dept. of Athletics
Murr Center
65 N. Harvard St.
Boston, MA 02163-1012
Phone: 617.495.2695/Fax: 617.495.2700
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