Thursday, April 02, 2009
Men's Tennis wraps up eventful three weeks...prepares to hunt Lions et more this weekend...
Dear Friends of Harvard Men's Tennis,
Here is the long awaited, much delayed, update on our team's progress this year. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. We landed back in Cambridge on Sunday morning to get back to school and gear up for the Ivy League campaign. For those of you living in or around Boston please come out to watch us play Columbia on Friday at 2pm (at the Murr) and Cornell on Saturday at 2pm (possibly outdoors at Beren). This will be a shorter match summary than usual since it covers such a wide swath of time and seven varsity matches…
In the middle of March, the Crimson Netters traveled down to historic Williamsburg for contests against Old Dominion University and William and Mary. ODU was a close 4-3 loss and W&M was a 4-3 win. Both matches saw players stepping up in the line-up and gaining valuable experience while contributing to the team. ODU had a strong top of the line-up and won the first three singles slots while Harvard pulled out four through six. The doubles point made all the difference and ODU was able to capture first and second doubles. Harvard 3 ODU4
At William and Mary, we still lost the doubles point, but managed wins at the top by Chris Clayton at #1 and freshman Alistair Felton at #2 along with another ever-improving freshman, Davis Mangham, at #4 and senior star Mike Kalfayan at #6 to put us over the hump. Harvard 4 W&M 3. The most notable story of the weekend was captain Mike Kalfayan, who not only won both singles matches but also was finishing his social studies thesis. Kalf spent every waking moment editing, proofing and diligently rewording his ouevre either in the hotel room, on the van or in the plane. He turned it in on time Thursday to everyone's great relief. The ghost of past thesis writers surfaced over and over again in Coach Fish's stories to the team – like the legend of George Turner, who never missed a practice while still handing in his thesis on a full night's sleep, or Kunj Majmudar – who played the first part of spring break in CA, flew back to finish his engineering thesis in the lab, and then proceeded to fly back out to LA and beat Pepperdine on the final day of the trip without having hit a ball! Kalfayan embodied the true spirit of the scholar athlete and set the bar very high in terms of committment to the team and respect for his school work.
Only a few days later, on March 20th, we battled University of Portland at Harvard and wrestled a 6-1 victory despite getting a doubles lesson and dropping all three pro-sets. There were gritty performances by Captain Clayton at #1 and a good win at #4 by Michael Hayes. With a very short night's sleep, the team flew out early on Saturday morning for spring break and a chance to get one day of practice outdoors before competing against Loyola Marymount on Sunday, March 22nd. Of course, Sunday's wind registered gusts over 40 mph and made for some ugly tennis. It was one of those days that if you dropped a ball and let it bounce – it would head off at right angles to the side of the court. The day's work was made considerably easier that we finally won the doubles point capturing 2nd and 3rd doubles with senior Ermakov back in the line-up showing his veteran moves. Alexei Chijoff-Evans, Mike Hayes and Aba Omodele-Lucien were able to grind out wins at #2, 4 and 6 spots respectively, despite the ever-gusting conditions.
As we moved down to La Jolla and our San Diego trip, things kept getting interesting. We found ourselves short-handed unexpectedly, which left us with a crisis - we note that the Chinese symbol for crisis contains two images: danger and opportunity. Choosing opportunity, the team rallied, and new stars emerged. This year has seen 12 different varsity players earn meaningful match wins. While falling convincingly to San Diego State 6-1, losing a tight match to UC-Irving 4-3 (one match point for us) and coming out on the wrong side of a tussle with USD 5-2 – it was a tough patch of losses but players like Will Guzick, Mac McAnulty, Tim Wu and the Finnish rocket Liinus Hietaniemi were able to show that they could compete and win at the top levels of college tennis. Will Guzick showed his top form in a fierce battle against USD – yanking his opponent side to side and turning the match into a contest of will and stamina (in which Guzick usually prevails). Tim Wu, pairing with Mac McAnulty, won the clinching doubles point against UC Irvine with some legendary lobs and darting poaches. It was the first varsity match win for both players (of many to come). Liinus Hietaniemi stormed the court against USD at six singles and made a name for himself with his big forehands, indomitable energy and strong "physique" (inside joke).
With a fresh start in the Ivy season, the team is eager to do its best against the rest of the Ivy League. Please come out and watch this team fight – they have great energy and zest for competition. While the year has been full of challenges with injuries and illness, our players have remained committed to getting better every day and look forward to giving it their all against Columbia tomorrow (Friday) and Cornell (Saturday), both at 2pm. Please come out and support the troops!!!