Friday, June 15, 2012

The 2012 Harvard Tennis Season: A Banner Year

The 2012 Harvard Tennis Season: A Banner Year


In this issue of News and Views

NCAA Recap

Review of the Year

Captains and other Awards

Academic Honors

1966 Team Roster

Graduation Photos - McAnulty receives summa

Contribute to the Friends


NCAA Recap

While it has been a few weeks since the NCAAs , the memories are still fresh from the final weekend of a great season.  As many of you know, HMT (Harvard Men's Tennis) knocked off the Hokies of Virginia Tech in the first round before falling to the Florida Gators in the round of 32.  The Gators would advance to the sweet 16 before falling to Ohio State in Athens, Georgia.  

Against Virginia Tech, it came down to a battle of conditioning.  We lost the crucial doubles point (what's up with the coaching you might be wondering from doubles specialists Butorac and Rueb?).  Good question!   The top pairings of MacMaster and Felton would lead the way with a win – saving their best tennis for the end of the year.  But the other two teams would falter and put us in a hole 1-0.  It was time, in the 85-degree heat, for the players to step up.  They did. 


Our back of the line-up would prove too strong for the Hokies, as Alex Steinroeder and Andy Nguyen would notch convincing wins at #5 and #6 respectively.   Schultz would fall hard at #3 – evening the match at two.  It was another freshmen's turn to step up - Chaudhuri would put the Crimson ahead with a long but precise performance in defeating Tocci in three sets in the heat and humidity.  With two matches left, the Crimson needed only one win to move on.  Pearlman was down 4-0 in the third against Luka Somen, one of the top 50 players in the country.   Jon did well to capture the first set and extend the match.  The match hung on court #2 and on the racket of Denis Nguyen.  Denis, as you might remember, clinched the Ivy Title bout with his comeback at #2 against the Big Green.  This time it was not so much his shot making but his conditioning that won the day.  Having finished his exams early, Denis flew down to train with Pearlman in Palm Beach, a few days ahead of the team, to get used to the heat.  Boy, was that a stroke of genius.  After running for nearly 2.5 hours, it was the Hokies' Oliveira who cracked first and started cramping.  Denis was leading 4-1 in the third when Oliveira had to retire due to full body cramps.  It was a hard way to lose but certainly a sign of all the hard work the men of Harvard put into their training.  


Buoyed by the win, the team regrouped for their match against host Florida.  It was a chance to play a top ranked team and see what the next level had to offer.  Although we played some of our best doubles in the last month, and were in a position to win, we came up a little short.  MacMaster and Felton played lights out from the start with a convincing win 8-5.  Felton was darting around the net like a barn swallow and MacMaster was punishing returns like Agassi.  They served big and swarmed the net.  The Gators took it to us at third doubles with a dominating performance that left the doubles point up to Pearlman and Schultz at #2.  They got up two match points on Christo's serve before a little doubt crept in.  All in all, it was an inspired performance by both until the very end and almost put the host team on their heels.


In singles, Florida had firepower that we had not seen during the year.  At #3, #4 & #5, the Gators were a juggernaut.   We got shellacked in straight sets in those spots and lost 4-0.  Their players hit a bigger ball and were able to finish points with a flurry.  It was a great lesson on what we have to do to reach the next level.  At the NCAA Individual Tournament, Florida's number three player, Nassim Slilam, would beat Princeton's #1 Pecotic (and two-time Ivy-League Player of the Year) in straight sets.  But upon closer inspection, there were many places where we were neck and neck.  Pearlman won the first set in a tiebreaker and was in the second set when the match was stopped.  Andy Nguyen was in the third set and had a very good chance of winning while Denis Nguyen was leading in the second set.  There were plenty of wonderful object lessons to take away from the match, but everyone who saw us compete couldn't doubt the teams fire and toughness. 


Recap of the Year


The 2012 Harvard Tennis team put on a show all year.  It started by taking 2 of 3 doubles matches from USC in the first outing of the year and continued by winning the ECACs and Ivies along the way to the NCAAs.   Their 23-3 record and .885% winning percentage was the best since the undefeated team of 1966 captained by Dave Benjamin that went 12-0.  While the team on paper might not have had the same firepower as teams did in some of our best years (James Blake's team of 1998 that went 25-4, or the squad of 1992 with three All-Americans and a freshmen named Andrew Rueb playing six, or the 2004 team that made it to the sweet sixteen or the 1986 and '87 squads), what they accomplished on court was probably less expected given the fact that four freshmen started nearly all season long and we had three doubles-only stars playing in almost every match.  We might have used more players in our matches throughout a season than any other team we know of.  The team won an incredible 3 matches after staving off match points.   There was a resiliency and toughness that was hard to quantify but that was borne out of their hard work, commitment, and their love of each other.  It was a very close fraternity that future teams would be wise to try to emulate.  The captains deserve a lot of credit as their leadership that set the tone by sensibly shepherding the younger ones.   Our strength and conditioning program was taken to the next level by our fitness guru, Kurtis West, working out of Palmer-Dixon and the new varsity gym facility (if you haven't been in town for a while, Briggs Cage was demolished over twenty years ago to make room for the Murr Center).   Getting our courts resurfaced the past year played a big part in enabling us to play longer and stronger (they were slowed considerably) and helped us in our long matches.   Having Eric Butorac around and engaged with the team was certainly a big factor – his energy, knowledge, professionalism and insights added so much.    But mostly, it was the players and their commitment to reestablishing a team culture that reflected the values of hard work and sacrifice.  (Ed. Note: Kudos to Andrew for all of his enthusiastic efforts throughout.  We're lucky to have one of the most knowledgeable young coaches in the country.)


Captains and Other Awards

Senior Andy Nguyen and Junior Casey MacMaster were named the captains of the 2013 Harvard Men's Tennis Team.  They will have big shoes to fill in replacing Mangham and Felton.  We think they are up to the challenge.  Mangham and Felton were both awarded the Ned Weld Award for going "above and beyond" for their contributions to the team and Harvard Tennis.  It is a rare honor – last given to Chris Clayton in 2009 – but certainly well deserved.   Freshmen Shaun Chaudhuri was named the Most Improved Player after notching an impressive 22-3 dual match singles record (mirroring the team's total).   The entire "Team" was awarded the most MVP.  We all found it impossible to single out someone when it was the collective efforts of all that gave us the razor's edge.


Jon Pearlman was unanimously named First team All-Ivy in singles while sophomore Denis Nguyen was named to Second Team.  Felton and MacMaster were awarded First team All-Ivy honors in doubles. 


On the academic Front, Robertson "Mac" McAnulty graduated in English with highest honors and was Phi Beta Kappa.  He received several post-graduation scholarships including an invitation to study Shakespeare at Oxford for a year.  Big congrats to Mac and all the 2012 graduates. 


1966 Team Roster:

The 1966 team, which went 12-0, was the last team to have a higher winning percentage than the 2012 squad that won the Ivies.  Here is a list of the players from that team which was captained by Dave Benjamin.    

Adams. John D. Jr. '66, Adelsberg, Bernard R. '68, Gonzalez, Jose R. '68 Jones, Boisfeuillet, Jr. '68, Whitbeck, John V.H. '68 (Manager), Appleby, William R. Jr. '67, Bauer, Dean J. '67, Blodget, Dudley F. '67, Davis, Brian W. '67, Hodges, David C. '67, Benjamin, David A. '66 (Captain), Friedman, Richard S. '66, Kileff, Clive '66, Wilkinson, Todd S. '66

Commencement Congratulations

Below are the graduation photos (and a video) of Jon Pearlman, Davis Mangham, Alistair Felton, Mac McAnulty and Liinus Hieteniemi.  Congrats!

Signing Off,

Andrew Y. Rueb '95 - Team Scribe

Dave Fish '72 – Editor in Chief

As the fiscal years draws to an end (June 30), we could still use your help!  In our next newsletter, we'll include the names of those folks who have already supported our program this year.  If you've already given, thanks!  If not, it's not too late to have your name included in this list.  

CLICK HERE to support Harvard Tennis!
All gifts to the Harvard Athletics Friends groups will receive Class Credit. The Department of Harvard Athletics, the Friends groups and Harvard Varsity Club encourage all alumni to make an additional gift to the Harvard College Fund to support the overall experience for our student-athletes, which includes the College's commitment to financial aid.

Dave Fish
E. Scott Mead Family Head Coach of Men's Tennis
Harvard University Dept of Athletics
Murr Center
65 N. Harvard St.
Boston, MA 02163
GoCrimson Men's Tennis website
Harvard Men's Tennis blog

No comments: