#23 Harvard Men's Tennis (22-2): News and Views
In this edition
Ivy League Champs!
4-3 Win over Big Green for all the Marbles
Link to Video of final moments
Faces in the crowd
Photos of HMT seniors with the Ivy trophy, and the whole team after the "clinch"
Ivy League Champs! 4-3 Win over the Big Green for all the Marbles
The Crimson earned Harvard's league-leading 29th Ivy League title last Saturday at the Beren Tennis Center by downing Dartmouth 4-3 in front of big crowd of supporters in another nail-biting finish. The teams' 22-2 record is the second best overall mark in team history. The match started well for the hometown boys as freshmen star Denis Nguyen and junior ace Andy Nguyen trounced their foes from Hanover 8-1 at #3. The other teams too jumped out to early leads. Both the top pair of Alistair Felton and Casey MacMaster and the second duo of Jon Pearlman and Christo Schultz were up a break and serving for the match simultaneously. But how quickly things change! The mojo went bad after a few double faults and some tight volleys. Dartmouth pounced. Harvard ended up losing both matches and went into singles down 1-0. The Big Green outplayed us for the last five minutes of the hour-long doubles contest but that was more than enough in a match where the margins are so small.
The singles would teeter back and forth for the next three hours. Harvard would quickly even the overall score to 1-1 as senior star Jon Pearlman would put an emphatic exclamation point on the end of his Ivy career with a 6-1, 6-0 win against Dartmouth's top gun. Jon compiled at 5-2 record at the top slot, making him a shoe-in for First Team All-Ivy honors. Shaun Chaudhuri would be next to strike and put Harvard up 2-1 with another masterful performance 6-2, 6-3. His win at #4 would breathe new life onto the remaining courts. Shaun would end the regular season with a team-leading 22-2 record. Not too shabby. Dartmouth would fight back and capture the #6 position as Henry Steer fell 7-5, 6-4. Notched at 2-2, the tension would steadily mount till the finish. Once again it would be Dartmouth's turn to add to the final tally, as sophomore star Cameron Ghorbani from Lexington, MA would out-duel Christo Schultz from Weston, MA in three sets. With no more room for error, Harvard would have to buckle down again and pull through in the last two matches. Alex Steinroeder (aka Houdini) from Concord, MA would bounce back after being down a set and 3-1 to take the match in three. Alex was playing in front of his whole high school tennis team that came out to support him. Buoyed by the crowd and his heart, Alex would pull the Crimson back to even at 3-3…
Now, the tension ratcheted up exponentially as both teams lined the courts and the crowd hovered over court #2 for the third set between Crimson freshman Denis Nguyen and Dartmouth's Jacob Laser. It was heart-stopping, knock-down, drag out tennis to the finish. Laser had won the first 7-5 and Denis shot back to take the second 6-0. In the third, it took Denis 12 deuces to hold serve in his first service game of the third set. A few games later, Laser would have two break points up 15-40 and 3-2. Denis would respond beautifully with two big serves to hold and even the score.
The match hinged on Denis' ability to balance the needle between hitting aggressive groundstrokes and being consistent. When he would get too passive, Laser could finish points with his inside out forehand and power game. But when Denis kept the bigger Laser on the run, he could force errors and expose his opponent's weaknesses. To give you a picture of the two combatants, Laser is probably 6' 2" and 185 pounds while the speedy Nguyen is 5' 7" and 155. But make no mistake, Denis can pop the ball and is rarely overpowered. With the match tied at 3-3 in the third set, Denis would go on a tear and break serve and hold with 3 service winners. Denis stayed focused on his breathing and found a way to mentally stay in the zone despite the intense pressure. Laser, down 5-3, would hold, forcing Denis to serve it out. Please go to the video to see the final two points and the ensuing celebration, as Denis would hit a backhand volley that would give the Crimson sole possession of the Ivy Crown. Goosebumps at no extra charge!
The 2012 Harvard Tennis Team has won every tournament/league they have entered including the ECAC Crown in February, the Mission Valley Spring Break Tournament in San Diego and now the Ivy Title. Up next, the NCAAs. Here is a link to the interactive NCAA draw. We are travelling to Gator country to face the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, May 12 at 9am in Gainesville, Florida. For those of you who have been following us closely throughout the season, you will remember that we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in our last match-up against the Hokies in February at the Murr. If we should win, we would play the 12th seeded University of Florida on Sunday at 2pm. If you want to see the selection show video click here. Parents, alums and fans are welcome to join us and cheer us on in Gainesville.
Faces in the Crowd:
Given the enormity of the moment, we might have missed many of our alums and fans in the crowd on Saturday so please excuse us in advance. On the parent's front, Bonnie and Bill Steinroeder and Bob and Sheila Steer were there rooting on their boys. Denis Nguyen's personal coach Eric Michaud made the trip all the way from LA to see his star pupil come up huge in the clutch. Also in attendance were Paul Sullivan, Bruce Price, Rick Devereux, Mark Panarese, Roger Berry (with son Oscar), and Mike Libert. We would also like to thank the Concord-Carlisle boys tennis team for coming out with their coach Alex Spence and Tim Smith's gang from Longwood Cricket Club for joining us on the big day. Thanks to all our supporters who made our success this season all the more fun.
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E. Scott Mead Family Head Coach of Men's Tennis
Harvard University Dept of Athletics
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Boston, MA 02163